Sunday, 15 July 2012

Back to Northumberland...

I am now down in Dunstan near the Northumberland coast just North of Alnwick as I am staying with my Dad for a few weeks. To say it was a challenge to get down here is an understatement but that is another (long) story that includes one failed journey and two breakdowns.

I arrived late Friday night and have been enjoying the nice weather this weekend, let's hope it lasts. On Saturday (14th) I took walk down to Craster harbour. In terms of birdwatching it's not terribly exciting or productive but it has a really nice feel to it and I always make sure I take a walk down. There were plenty of birds about though including a big group of Starlings, House Sparrows, Jackdaws and Rooks all with young and feeding on the shoreline. A single Rock Pipit was also hopping about. I decided to head South from here towards Cullernose Point which I hadn't visited before but read about it's seabird colonies consisting of primarly Kittiwakes, a species I hadn't seen yet this year. Not far from the harbour were plenty of Black-headed Gulls roosting on the shore with a single juvenile tern (I will leave it as tern because I am not even going to attempt to ID juv. Common / Arctic terns) making a lot of noise. Out on the rocky outcrops were plenty of Cormorants, Great Black-backed, Herring and Lesser Black-backed gulls and plenty of Terns fishing in the surrounding water. From here I headed South along the coastal footpath as the sun came out. The path runs past some grasslands that were full of bees and butterflies with plenty of Swallows and House Martin overhead. Beside the path were plenty of Harebell in flower also.

A worn Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)
Another Common Blue
A worn Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus)
Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia)
There were also plenty of Silver Y moths flying about in the grasses a species I hadn't seen before.

Silver Y (Autographa gamma) - note the distinctive white marks on the wings which give it it's name.
View of grassland with Craster in the distance and Dunstanburgh Castle in the far distance.

I carried on along the path and came to Cullernose point, a stunning view from the top of the cliff and the strong smell associated with any seabird colony hit me. There were Kittiwakes everywhere with plenty of juveniles perched on nests and some flying around. Out in the bay was a stunning adult Razorbill and two Grey Seals.

Cullernose Point seabird colony

Kittiwakes with juveniles on nests
After some time spent watching the birds flying around and coming and going I moved on further. There were still plenty of Whitethroats singing and managed to spot 3 different birds. There were also plenty of Small Tortoiseshells flying about and Goldfinch in the Hawthorns. Further round though were more cliffs with more Kittiwakes but also Fulmars. The Fulmars were flying so close the path at the top of the cliff I could have reached out and grabbed them in flight! Superb views of several different birds I just wish my camera skills could have done them justice (lots of over exposed / blurry shots).


Looking back towards Cullernose Point
Small Tortoiseshell
After the Fulmar show I made my way back the way I came. A very enjoyable afternoon and another species for the year list!

Today (15th) I headed down towards Craster but turned off before the village towards The Heughs and Scroghill Hill. The public footpath takes you through some rough grazing fields adjacent to a rocky outcrop with impenetrable Gorse and Hawthorn. From almost every obvious perch that I passed there were Yellowhammers and Linnet singing their hearts out. Didn't manage to get any decent photos as it was quite windy. A Magpie flew over which I always enjoy seeing as it is a rare bird back home in the Highlands. A Kestrel was also hunting over the nearby fields. The footpath lies west of the path from Craster to Dunstanburgh Castle and eventually joins up with it near the castle. A single juvenile Eider was in the bay and plenty of Rooks in in between all the grazing sheep. I made my way around the bottom of the castle through the wetland spotting Moorhen and Grey Heron on the way. On the main pool beside the castle were a few Mallard and a handful of Kittiwake. I walked right around to the back of the castle hill where the sheer cliffs hold another seabird colony. This time there were hundreds of Kittiwakes, loads of Fulmars and plent of Shag to be seen. A scan of the cliffs resulting in a single adult Razorbill with another out in the shallow bay on the water. I sat and spent some time watching and listening to the racket of so many birds. A family group of Pied Wagtails were feeding on the rocky shore. Just as I was about to leave a group of 5 Common Guillemots turned up and joined the Razorbill out on the water. No pictures unfortunately as everything was so far away. I headed back along a similar route to the one I came with more Yellowhammers and Linnets singing and plenty of Swallows flying low over the fields. Again another enjoyable afternoon, let's hope this nice weather continues.

I will be doing some work for my dad starting on Monday but I hope to get out as much as I can. Any birdwatchers that read this are probably aware there has been a sighting of Red-backed Shrike a couple miles down the road from where I am and a Pectoral Sandpiper. Hopefully I will get to go and visit the area soon althought I don't think the Shrike has been reported for a few days but watch this space!

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