Embleton to Dunstanburgh

27 Apr

I’ve walked to Dunstanburgh Castle many times in the past but always from the Craster side and never approached from the North, so in easter-holidays babysitting mode I made up a picnic and bundled my 4 year old into the car for a spot of exploring.

Things did not start out so promising when 2 mins from that car I found my binoculars to be broken – the rotating ring to adjust the extent of eye-relief was sitting at a jaunty angle and the collar on the eyepiece was spinning around freely. Meanwhile Hannah threw the mother of all fits because she had sand in her shoes. Not an auspicious start, although there was a lovely linnet sat atop a small shrub that allowed us to approach to within 6 feet so I didn’t actually need optical aids at that point. Anyway – back to the car for reserve bins.

20 feet along the track and a splendid male yellowhammer was sat in the hedge and like the linnet was extremely obliging. Somewhere in the same hedge a grasshopper warbler was reeling but keeping itself well hidden.

Yellowhammer

Yellowhammer

Following along the track on the landward side of the golf course were the ubiquitous meadow pipipts and wheatears with a couple of pied wagtails enjoying the close cropped fairways. Green-veined white, large white and tortoiseshell butterflies were also around in the sunshine.

On the shallow lake immediately in front of Dunstanburgh castle were a few mallards and a pair of shelduck whish eventually flew off after a disagreement with a greylag goose.

Shelduck

Shelduck

Stopped for a while to look to see what was on the water beneath the cliffs – mostly kittiwakes and common and herring gulls – very few razorbills actually on the water, and only a single shag. Last time I visited here about three weeks there seemed to be more razorbills, shags and cormorants (and three harbour porpoises).

Taking the track around the castle, swallows were in abundance hunting down the horrible black flies which were presumably attracted by the sheep dung but which caused Hannah lots of grief.

(Barn) Swallow

Bird on a wire - Swallow

Inside the castle for refreshments and a breather we had a look at the clifftops and were treated to some incredible views of the fulmars gliding past within 6 feet of our noses – noses which were being assailed by the “aroma” from the kittiwake colony when the wind blew the odd random gust.

Fulmar

Fulmar

Also had the rather peculiar sight of an eider on a nest perched right at the top of the cliff – not the kind of bird I expect to see in a high rise city like this.

On the way back down to the track a grey heron circled and settled on the lake before the peace was shattered by a Tornado screaming past at low level. There seems to be a lot of activity of the aircraft variety on the coast at the moment – in the last few weeks I’ve had an AWACS circling the area, chinook over St Mary’s Island, several Tornados at low altitude and by Amble today one of the american twin-tailed jobs (don’t know what type).

Final birds of the morning back at the car – common whitethroat sat in the same hedge that the yellowhammer had graced earlier, and a buzzard circling.

And then dropped my glasses and broke them. Not a good day for optics!

Birds seen : Linnet, Yellowhammer, Pied Wagtail, Wheatear, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Razorbill, Shag, Swallow, Shelduck, Greylag goose, Heron

Butterflies : Small tortoiseshell, green-veined white, large white

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