Saturday, October 21, 2006

Roller - Holy Island, Northumberland - 15th Oct 2006.

With the arrival of the weekend, i was determined to make amends for the disappointment of not being able to twitch the Canada Warbler in Ireland during the earlier part of the week, and what better way than seeing some migrants on the east coast. I also booked the Monday and Tuesday off work to make a long weekend.

My only previous Roller was a bird just north of the Kyle of Lochalshe, Highland in July 1995, so the bird present near Holy Island proved more than a tempter.

Upon arrival at Beal, just inland from the Holy Island causeway, the superb 1stw Roller was showing well on Hawthorns, a little distant for photography in the dull light, but allowing perfectly good scope views. I had to settle for videograbs of this bird, which would perch for periods atop the Hawthorns, then make sorties to the ground for prey items, drawing gasps of appreciation from the assembled birders as it burst into colour upon taking flight. Even Pam, my fiancee, was impressed! - The poor videograbs simply don't do the bird justice.

Roller - Beal, Northumberland - 15th Oct 2006.
Surprisingly, in my years of birding, I had never actually set foot on Holy Island, so the prospect of indulging in some birding on the Island added immensely to the appeal of a day trip.
The tide was low enough for us to cross the causeway at 11:00hrs. A superb ad Red-throated Diver was just off the road in the channel, as were several Eider.
First stop was the area known as 'The Snook'.
Well, immediately after leaving the car and entering the dunes I was blown away with this area, which appeared to be an absolute delight for finding migrants with only small scattered areas of vegetation and the garden of Snook House looked amazing, with a small belt of stunted Sycamores.
For anyone with a passion for drift migrants, what price this property for a birder! - Simply mouthwatering.
Several high flying flocks of mixed Thrushes, mainly Redwing and Blackbirds and some Song Thrushes were obviously coming in from the North sea, and whilst watching a Chiffchaff in some isolated vegetation, a Shorelark flew relatively low overhead, calling, as it made its way south and a f/imm Merlin briefly gave chase to a flock of Meadow Pipit.
A Great Grey Shrike was present in the area, eventually showing well on dead branches in the large vegetation-free area nr Snook House.
Great Grey Shrike - The Snook, Holy Island, Nothumberland - 15th Oct 2006.
It was whilst at the Snook, that we learnt of an American Golden Plover showing "by the causeway".
So, back to the car and a short drive to the mainland end of the causeway only revealed birders who had no knowledge of the bird, nor could I see a Golden Plover flock.
This misinformation was to prove very costly, as shortly afterwards a pager message indicated that the bird was actually nearer to Holy Island village, showing amongst an 800 strong flock of 'Goldies'.
Another short drive later and we pulled up at the assembled twitch. Birders were clearly watching the bird.
I quickly opened the car boot and had almost erected the tripod when for no apparent reason the whole flock flew and dissappeared distantly onto the sands....... AARRGGHHH!! - There was no further sign of the bird for the remainder of the day.
A couple of hundred Dark-bellied Brent Geese were on the sandflats.
Moving onto the village area, we were soon at the House named 'Captains Garden', where after a short wait, the Red-breasted Flycatcher duly showed well in the Sycamore canopy, as did a fairly vocal Yellow-browed Warbler and a Brambling.
Next stop was a garden near the School, where a Barred Warbler was showing upon arrival. I just managed a record image before the bird dissappeared further into the vegetation.

Barred Warbler - Holy Island, Northumberland - 15th Oct 2006.

More small flocks of Redwing were noted, a flock of 12 Brambling flew south as well as a number of Skylark.

After this, Pam spent a while looking in the shops, whilst i explored the gardens, noting more of the common migrants previously mentioned, plus a few Blackcaps.

The village itself is absolutely lovely with many fabulous gardens for migrants, and what an impressive sight Lindisfarne Castle is.

With so much more of the island itself to explore, never mind the birding, we left Holy Island at 16:30hrs vowing this would be the first of many more future visits to this wonderful location.

Despite no news either way on the Newbiggin Bonapartes Gull since early morning, I decided to call in on the way home, arriving at 17:30hrs.

An hours search of the Church point area revealed no sign of the Bonapartes, but compensation was had in the form of 5 Mediterranean Gulls (4 x 1stw, 1x 2ndw) and there was an exhausted Northern Wheater attempting to roost in a gap on a small cliff face.

1stw Med Gull - Newbiggin, Nothumberland- 15th Oct 2006.

With Pam working next day, we had to return home. But I arose at 04:30hrs next morning and headed off to Spurn intending to stay overnight..........