True to the nature of the site, during winter most of my wanderings focus on the Blyth estuary itself. Here waders gather in force, putting on a fine show throughout the season with Dunlin and Redshank by far the most numerous. The former whirling and wheeling in a spectacle reminiscent of southern Knot gatherings though often in the absence of any Knot. Indeed, a count of five Knot is actually rather good by my standards here. Alongside these; smaller accumulations of Turnstone, Curlew, Lapwing and Golden Plover never fail to delight, as do some of the site's less abundant leggy offerings. Among these, Black and Bar-Tailed Godwit, Grey Plover and the odd Purple Sandpiper. The large gatherings of waders here clearly have the potential to turn up something altogether more interesting, though to date, the best I have managed comprises a lone Spotted Redshank. Tales of a wintering Terek Sandpiper before my time only fuel my hope of one day unearthing something remarkable here. We shall see.
|Great Northern Diver by James Common|
While discussing seabirds I owe it to the patch to briefly mention my favoured seawatching position just north of the estuary. Many a cold, winter day has been spent here, often for little or no reward – as is the nature of seawatching I guess. When things go right however winter seawatching here can be thoroughly rewarding. Little Auks are a regular winter feature with 28 recorded this season alone, often very close to shore and thankfully, rarely stranded on the beach as at many other locations. Additionally, seawatching here has allowed me to catch up with my only patch Little Gulls among other winter species such as migrating Whooper Swans and large flotillas of Common Scoter. There is also great potential for a number of species "in off" with notable records to date this winter including Woodcock, Brambling and various thrushes shooting in above the surf. I did say I would keep this bit brief however..
Bypassing talk of Peregrines, Grey Partridge and other patch based goodies (if only to keep the word count down) there is one other area of the patch that warrants a mention. Perhaps more so than others as this is indeed the first nature reserve I remember visiting in my youth. I am of course referring to Ha'Penny Woods Local Nature Reserve, a small piece of remnant woodland that fringes the River Blyth a little upstream of the sites previously mentioned. Here I find it possible to lose myself entirely, immersed in Red Squirrels, Otters and a host of avian treats. This site is great for a number of species from Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail to Tawny Owl though it is the wood's passerines that hold perhaps the most allure. Here Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Great Spotted Woodpecker are commonplace, as are Bullfinch and Goldcrest, alongside of course a smorgasbord of familiar woodland denizens. Ha'Penny truly comes into its own in winter, visibility increased due to fallen leaves and has the potential to surprise year on year, Willow Tit being the latest in the series of grin -inducing moments.
|Shore Lark by James Common|
In short, winter on my patch is a glorious affair. Continuing on from Amy Robjohn's wonderful post on the subject a few weeks ago, it really is worth grabbing yourself a patch. To me, patch birding is one of the most rewarding and incredibly enjoyable hobbies around and this year, spurred on by the popular Patchwork Challenge I aim to indulge myself further.
James Common, (@CommonByNature)