We have not done any birding since arriving in the UK in June, but a trip to Northumberland in early July was a great opportunity to see some birds. We arrived in Tynemouth on Thursday afternoon and quickly added Kittiwake to our year list. There were good numbers of them nesting on the cliffs underneath the castle. Moving along the coast to Seaton Sluice we had a walk round Rocky Island seeing Eider Ducks and Turnstones from the rocks and a couple of Sand Martins were flying in and out of a nest hole along the harbourside. We enjoyed watching a Meadow Pipit which was calling and doing parachute flights into the undergrowth. On Friday we saw a single Lapwing in the fields along the Blyth to Seaton Sluice road. A walk from Old Hartley to St Mary’s Lighthouse gave us Swallows, Starlings, Goldfinches and a Reed Bunting, along with the more common Herring Gulls, Cormorants and Black headed Gulls.
On Saturday we met up with Peter Williams, a birder who is in my Facebook Bird Group and who we first met near the Vistabella Hide in Spain. Peter had invited us to visit his local patch of Gosforth Park Nature Reserve in the hope of seeing one of the Bitterns that have been sighted there recently. Sadly, no Bitterns showed for us, but we did see Jays, Reed Warblers, Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Little Grebe, Grey Heron and a few Common Terns and their young on the large Tern raft. It was interesting to watch the parents trying to bring fish to their young whilst being ‘mugged’ by some of the other adult birds. Seeing a Doe and her Fawn was a highlight and a Fox also appeared at one point. The reserve seems like a really good place for birds and mammals alike and we were grateful to Peter for taking us there, even without the elusive Bittern!
We left the reserve around lunchtime to continue our journey north to the holiday cottage we had booked for the week. The cottage is on a farm and overlooks the sea at Howick Haven. Easy birding was had from the window where we were able to watch Gannets and Terns flying past and diving for fish. The garden and farmyard held Swallows, a Pied Wagtail with two young and several Swifts were seen flying over. A short walk along the coast on Sunday found us our target bird of Yellowhammer, along with Linnet and Stonechat. We ate our lunch in the cottage and had amazing views of four Dolphins swimming and jumping in the sea outside our window, brilliant!
Later we had another walk along the cliffs and enjoyed watching Gannets and Terns fishing and Fulmars soaring effortlessly along the coast. Large groups of Kittiwakes were seen sitting on the sea or bathing in a rock pool, along with a single Curlew. A female Goosander was sitting on a rock until the tide came in and moved her onto the sea where we watched her diving for fish. As we returned to the farm ‘our’ Yellowhammer’ was perched on the wall of our cottage, singing loudly.