Yellow brows, red wings and white grouse…

15 Oct

The promise of fine weather and a child-free day lured me up to Lindisfarne this morning for a proper walk, and the weather didn’t disappoint. Clear blue skies on arrival and a surprising warmth for an October day boded well. I’ve really struggled for opportunities since mid summer and today was an opportunity to just get out there and get into the groove.

The Castle from the Village

I wasn’t looking for anything in particular other than a chance to stretch my legs and see what the change of season would bring. I also wanted to check out my new HTC phone and souped up battery to see if it could withstand four or five hours of using GPS, taking photos and uploading photos (all but one of the photos on this post are using the camera on my phone rather than my SLR)

A herd of swans just off the causeway needed checking to see if they were whoopers (I havent seen any yet this year) but they turned out to be mutes, and only a handful of bar-tailed godwits and gulls were close by the road.

Parking up at on the sands just before the village I started out down St Cuthberts Way along the beach, spooking a few curlews and rock pipits as I headed towards a viewpoint to see a large flock of waders on a mud bank.

Plovers and seals

Several times the flock lifted and wheeled around glinting in the sunlight – golden plovers in a flock of around 200. I never did see what spooked them – maybe it was just for the exercise. On the other side of the channel 30 or so grey seals loafed on the sands oblivious to the activity.

Following the coast round until I picked up the path to the town past the school attracting stares from the curious sheep – there didn’t seem to be any else on the island out of bed so they were probably surprised to see me!

Who are ewe?

From the village I headed up the Straight Lonnen where the bushes were teeming with birds harvesting the berries, and the air was teeming with midges trying to harvest my blood. Blackbirds were dominant it wasn’t long before but I saw my first redwings of the year joining the feast.


The real gem though was a yellow browed warbler that was keeping one bush distance from me for a while but I eventually managed to get a good view of the little blighter. As I got my camera into position for a clear shot though… another visitor keen to see it joined us – in the form of a sparrowhawk fancying a light bite. It suddenly appeared in the willow tree housing the warbler but it spotted me as well as its snack and thought better of it, meanwhile the YBW made off in the opposite direction after the commotion!

Not much else to report from Straight Lonnen other than a few woodpigeons and a single female reed bunting.

From the top end I headed north into the dunes hoping for a short eared owl after drawing a blank all year (no change today) and followed the path east to Emmanuel Head across the beach which was pleasingly free of signs of human activity – the only footprints were from feathered visitors.

Across to Emmanuel Head

Trekking across the beach toward the pyramid there was a grey heron, a variety of gulls and a pair of eider flying past, and then up to the pyramid.

Pyramid landmark

Heading back down the East side of the island I finally saw another person – it couldn’t last I suppose.

A single gannet, several meadow pipits, rock pipits and a pied wagtail and a couple of seals were on view but the tide was so far out I couldn’t see too much out to sea.

Back along to the castle and the human population taking advantage of the weather were becoming more evident and the birds less so, but it was still an idyllic day.

The Castle (again!)

Just a quick stop off a the Lindisfarne Winery for a bottle of mead for the missus, a bottle of whisky for me, and some fudge for the little ‘un.

I did notice on the wires on the way back up to the car park one or two house martins still hanging around – all are long gone from home for me.

Back on the mainland, buzzards were in abundance making use of the unexpected thermals… all the way from Holy Island down to Morpeth there were regular sights, including a spectacular mid-air grapple between a buzzard and a corvid near Haggerston Castle.

Oh yes… and white grouse? Just a few miles from home an all-white red grouse flew across the A1 just north of Morpeth. I’ve seen plenty of red grouse in my time and I’m fairly sure thats what it was but I’ve never seen an albino before.

It may not have been a truly spectacular day in terms of rarities, but for me in terms of getting back connected with nature it was unsurpassed… beautifully crisp.. splendidy isolated and so far from the distractions of the daily rat-race. To just sit in the dunes and listen to the sound of the waves and the wind fizzing the dried grasses and a faint echo of the seals moaning carried on the breeze was something I’ve needed to do for a long long time. I only had a long lens with me for my main camera and the new phone did a better than expected job, but I don’t think I could have captured the essence of today with the most expensive camera and an array of lenses.

Connection was what today was all about and sometimes its just not possible to capture that.

Onwards and upwards.


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