Sunday, 25 May 2014


A (non birding) holiday to Northumberland started off well with a hobby flying over the M6 near the Manchester Ship Canal a surprise and a good omen on the drive up from Devon.

We stayed in Bamburgh on the coast, an amazingly beautiful place with a gorgeous sandy beach and a dramatic castle just 5 minutes walk from our hotel. From our room we had a distant view of Holy Island and Lindisfarne Castle which was a surprise as we thought we would be in the cheap rooms at the back of the hotel!

The general birdlife was very noticeable, there were birds everywhere no doubt due to the less intensive farming methods used in the countryside. This obviously has an effect on insect life too which supports the high bird numbers as the car windscreen and number plate were covered daily by insect splats galore, something I haven't seen in such excess since my childhood in Suffolk.

Highlights of the week were:- a singing male pied flycatcher around a nest box at Birdoswald Roman Fort with 2 spotted flycatchers seen in a small wood by Housesteads Roman Fort along Hadrians Wall; 2 purple sandpipers roosting on rocks on Holy Island with a summer plumaged dunlin, a winter plumaged grey plover, a whimbrel, oystecatchers, Sandwich terns and an Arctic tern; distant views of 2 little terns with Sandwich and comic terns off Holy Island; 7 roe deer feeding in fields on Holy Island; northern marsh orchids beginning to flower on Holy Island; a first summer little gull being harassed by black headed gulls as it fed along the river at Beadnell while little and Arctic terns flew around, a female red breasted merganser flew past and a hare ran through the dunes; 3 tree sparrows flying over fields and briefly landing in bushes before flying off at Dunstanburgh Castle; a female merlin flying by the car over moorland at Rothbury doing a mistle thrush like camouflage flight before swooping low over the heather in hunting mode; and a pod of bottle nose dolphins close inshore moving north at Dunstanburgh Castle.

 Pair of Eider Duck at Seahouses
 Little Tern at Beadnell
 Bottle Nose Dolphins offshore at Dunstanburgh Castle
Northern Marsh Orchid on Holy Island

Other birdlife seen included yellowhammer, reed bunting, wheatear, sedge warbler, reed warbler, whitehthroat, grey wagtail, siskin, shoveler, tufted duck, ringed plover, turnstone, curlew, eider. Also seen were plenty of grey seals.

The best though was a trip to the Farne Islands just offshore from Seahouse near Bamburgh. The weather was perfect with sunshine and calm seas and after a sail around the islands where we had great views of puffins, guillemots (including a few bridled forms), razorbills, gannets, fulmars, shags, eiders, kittiwakes, Sandwich terns and Arctic terns. We had an hour on Inner Farne island where the birds were amazingly tame and we had more amazing views of the same birds but including common terns. I even got shat on by an Arctic tern as is hovered 2 feet over my head which I thought was very rude considering I am a member of the RSPB! The trip was only 2 and a half hours long but flew by in a flash and was absolutely heavenly (to me!).

 Guillemots ( including 2 bridled forms) with Kittiwakes
 Arctic Tern
 Common Tern with Arctic Tern

On the way home we stopped of at the National Trust house and estate at Croome near Worcester which was very interesting and where I finally saw a silent green woodpecker (after hearing many but seeing none so far this year) along with a brimstone butterfly, and eventually we arrived back in Plymouth exhausted but having had an absolutely amazing time.

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