Trip report: New Year Outing (6 January 2024)

For our New Year Outing in 2024, we headed to South Northumberland.  Our party of seven travelled from Durham to St. Mary’s Island, near Whitley Bay, where we met up with another group member as previously arranged.  The weather was cold and overcast, but there was plenty to see.  A Rock Pipit was on the small sandy beach, while Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones foraged amongst the seaweed exposed by the falling tide.  Flocks of Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Sanderling and a single Bar-tailed Godwit roosted on rocks above the shoreline.  A Kingfisher streaked past on several occasions.

St. Mary’s Island (Julie Hogg)
Redshanks and Oystercatchers (Richard Cowen)

A walk around the wetland area produced a Grey Heron, several Teal, Mallard, Moorhen, Coot and some rather secretive Snipe.  A gaggle of Pink-footed Geese landed in a distant field.  By this time, the tide had gone out far enough for us to cross to St. Mary’s Island.  A large group of Grey and Common Seals, had hauled out on the rocks below the lighthouse and by a flock of Redshank huddled together nearby.  A couple of Red-throated Divers and a few Eiders were on the sea.

Common Seal (Richard Cowen)

After lunch, we moved on to Widdrington Lake which had hosted a Smew in recent days.  Acting on advice received, we stopped about a mile before our destination to check the roadside hedges for Waxwings.  Unfortunately, there was no sign of any, although a handful of Fieldfares were feeding on berries.  There was a wide range of waterbirds on the Lake including Shelduck, Wigeon, Shoveler, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser and a Little Grebe, but no Smew.  Marsh Harrier and Kestrel hunted over the grassland to the East, while a single Pink-footed Goose was amongst the Canada Geese grazing on the Northern side.

Our next location was Druridge Pools, where we hoped to see a Long-tailed Duck.  Happily, this bird was still present and everyone managed a view despite its frequent diving.  There were few other birds at the pools, so we didn’t linger, moving on to the nearby Cresswell Pond.  New species here included Mute Swan and staples such as Wren, Dunnock and Blue Tit.  We enjoyed our second Kingfisher sighting of the day and excellent views of Snipe, along with an impressive count of 12 Little Grebes.

Long-tailed Duck (Richard Cowen)

As dusk approached, we set off back to Durham.  Two members were fortunate to see a Barn Owl while driving through Cresswell village, which brought the list for the day to 57 species.

Julie Hogg

Trip List

  1. Canada Goose
  2. Greylag Goose
  3. Pink-footed Goose
  4. Mute Swan
  5. Shelduck
  6. Shoveler
  7. Gadwall
  8. Wigeon
  9. Mallard
  10. Teal
  11. Tufted Duck
  12. Eider
  13. Long-tailed Duck
  14. Goldeneye
  15. Red-breasted Merganser
  16. Pheasant
  17. Woodpigeon
  18. Collared Dove
  19. Moorhen
  20. Coot
  21. Little Grebe
  22. Oystercatcher
  23. Lapwing
  24. Golden Plover
  25. Ringed Plover
  26. Curlew
  27. Bar-tailed Godwit
  28. Turnstone
  29. Sanderling
  30. Purple Sandpiper
  31. Snipe
  32. Redshank
  33. Black-headed Gull
  34. Common Gull
  35. Herring Gull
  36. Red-throated Diver
  37. Cormorant
  38. Grey Heron
  39. Little Egret
  40. Sparrowhawk
  41. Marsh Harrier
  42. Barn Owl
  43. Kingfisher
  44. Kestrel
  45. Magpie
  46. Starling
  47. Jackdaw
  48. Rook
  49. Carrion Crow
  50. Blue Tit
  51. Wren
  52. Blackbird
  53. Fieldfare
  54. Robin
  55. Dunnock
  56. Pied Wagtail
  57. Rock Pipit
  58. Lesser Redpoll
  59. Goldfinch