Embarked upon my weekly drive up along druridge bay this morning and had a productive couple of hours.
The beach at Cresswell had its usual selection of knot, dunlin, redshank, oystercatchers and purple sandpiper, but no sign of any sanderling or ringed plover today. I timed it right for the tide to push the birds toward me and so spent a pleasant if nippy half hour snapping away.
Further round the rocks were a couple of cormorants… one acquiring its breeding plumage with a white shaggy head and white patch on his legs.
Next on to Druridge pools and the budge screen and there was much more activity on the water than last week. Hundreds of wigeon were now in residence along with the teal, increased numbers of shoveller, and at least one of the drake pintails was still there. No sign of the grey partridges from last week, and the heron count had dropped from double figures to zero. The icy wind that the hide seems to specialise in discouraged me from lingering so I retreated to the car.
From there I pondered calling in at East Chev but decided to go on to Amble instead and then possibly up the coast a bit further.
I thought I’d have a look for YJU7 – my favourite mediterranean gull who spends his winters in Amble and then summers in Hungary, and sure enough a quick scan of the black heads snoozing on the grass by the car park revealed him, his black head coming along nicely.
The tide was pretty much fully in and nothing much on the beach except for a few rooks arguing over a polythene bag, and the icy blast of the newly arrived weather system had me thinking this would be a real quick circuit of the piers but something caught my attention near the sea wall. At first I thought it was just an immature guillemot and the wind was making it hard to hold my bins still but it looked a bit odd.
Got the camera stabilised on the railings and took a few distant snaps and reviewed them on the screens and it definitely wasn’t a guillemot, but it a combination of the wind and the poor light made it frustratingly hard to pin down. I walked along the wall thinking I’d get a bit closer but I took my eyes off it for a moment and when i looked again it was gone. Looking along the wooden pier back towards the shore I could see it almost at the beach amongs the gulls. I managed to get a better look with the bins but now into the sun and all I could make out was a silhouette. I was pretty sure it was a grebe but not sure what type. Luckily it stayed put close in to the corner of the beach and pier and I managed to get close enough to get some half decent shots which gave me more of a clue.
The poor little blighter was getting a hard time from 5 or 6 black headed gulls that dive bombed it whenever it surfaced with a fish, but it certainly seemed to be having plenty of success fishing.
Returning home I had three separate parties of whooper swans – four at the entrance to Ellington caravan park, five in a field on the southern outskirts of Ashington on the route to Bothal, and a single on Bothal pond itself.
Anyway – back to base and a scan through collins confirmed my suspicion that it was a red-necked grebe (a first for me).
So.. a bit chilly.. but nice to get out and get a new tick!