Sight of Bewicks at last

27 Nov

Having returned home from an ex-works reunion in Leeds on Friday night to find my welcome pack and hide key from Northumbrian Wildlife Trust had arrived, I set out to brave the gales this morning and check out the hides at Big Waters.. having hitherto been restricted to viewing from the boardwalk and the paths.

I wanted to see if from a better vantage point I could confirm for my own eyes the presence of the bewicks swans that have been around for probably two weeks now but that I had only been able to hear and not see, as well as check out to see if I could catch a glimpse of my first otter for the county.

My first wildlife encounter was before I reached the park.. driving from Widepon to Brunswick village a sparrowhawk dived across the road in front of my car at bumper height and swung right and flew along the path keeping pace for about 50 yards right beside me.

On getting parked up the biting wind that was supposed to have died off overnight was still showing teeth – so much so I even resorted to putting a pair of gloves on which is most unlike me!

I bypassed the hide opposite the island and headed straight for the main hide by the feeding station and was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable the hide was – plenty of space, cushions on the benches and plenty of info on the walls, plus windows facing both the feeding station and the lake.

Just in front of the window I selected, three little-grebes were busily rooting around.

Dabchick x3

Checking the lake at first most of the swans were still asleep making life a little difficult but there was a good selection of ducks around in front of the hide.

Shoveler, teal, wigeon, mallard - a resonable selection of ducks!

At first it seemed like only mallards and wigeon but scanning around the flock several teal were asleep on the bank and a handful of gadwall were mixed in and then I spotted a couple of male shoveler.

One of the whoopers at least was awake and was happy to float about in front of the hide, constantly ducking his head into the murky waters leaving him with a rather muddy head.

Muddy Whooper

Further out on the lake five or six goldeneye were bobbing about on the choppy water, and then finally I singled out a couple of swans away from the group… they didn’t look much smaller than the whoopers but being on their own it was difficult to judge the scale, but through the binos I could see much more black on the beak.. finally I’d managed to get eyes on the bewicks!

Sadly a bit far out to get anything other than a poor record shot, but at least now I could feel more confident than just a call to go on.


Watching for a while I was hoping for a brief appearance by an otter but didn’t come up trumps this time… at one point all the ducks on the bank of the lake headed for the middle of the lake which could have been the presence of an otter but probably equally likely a fox as the log book had several recent sightings. This flushing of the ducks revealed lots more teal that had been out of sight and in fact they probably outnumbered the wigeon.

I checked out the feeding station for a while and the usual suspects were in evidence – great tit, blue tit coal tit, dunnock, chaffinch, probably a dozen tree sparrows (probably double what I saw last time I visited), and a great spotted woodpecker kindly put in an appearance in front of the hide.


Heading back to the car park I checked out the other hide in front of the lake, hoping for better views of the Bewicks swans but they were tantalisingly half-way between the two, but it afforded a good view of the cormorants hunkered down to try and escape the worst of the wind, and a few further groups of ducks bobbing about – more goldeneyes and wigeon with a lone shoveler. Across the back of the lake a buzzard sat watching proceedings from a fencepost, and lapwings and greylag geese were sat beyond in the fields.

A pleasant hour… but the first time I’ve felt the winter start to kick in!


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