Friday 27 September 2019

Late September in Northumberland

Having left it too late to book into Spurn for a few days this autumn, myself and Dave Craven hatched a plan to head somewhere else on the east coast; Northumberland seemed like a good, under-birded option, but unfortunately Dave tore a ligament in his shoulder so had to bail. I decided to go anyway, as winds from the SE looked promising... So I booked two nights in the bunkhouse at Beal - just a few minutes drive from Lindisfarne.

Heading up the A1 early on Tuesday I got snarled up in traffic around Newcastle and was worried I was going to miss the window in the tides to cross over to Lindisfarne, so I headed to Low Newton instead, an area I knew a bit from a visit last spring. I spent two hours at the tree belt by the tin church, eventually hearing and then briefly seeing the mega elusive Red-breasted Flycatcher that had been found two days earlier. Single Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher and Yellow-browed Warbler were more co-operative.

The tin church at Low Newton
Pied Fly
Spotted Fly

Heading down into the village and the dunes beyond, another YBW was in the trees of a back garden adjacent to the rear of the pub, but I didn't see much else of note - a couple of Spotted Redshanks and a Med Gull on the flash. 

I continued on to Bamburgh, birding the dunes east of the castle. There are a couple of willow clumps here, and I worked my way through their tangled midsts, with 2 YBW in the first clump and a third in the second clump (along with a Redstart). These aren't the birds they used to be, but still great to come across. By now it it was p*ssing it down and I was fairly wet, so I called it a day just before 6pm.

Dune scrub at Bamburgh
Tangled willows
The following day I was out onto Lindisfarne - my first time birding on the island. Beginning at the Snook, I bumped into two local birders, who were welcoming and gave me some good advice. There were two YBW and two Redstarts in the plantation here, with a Garden Warbler at the house (but I failed to see the Barred Warbler). Further into the Snook, at Half-moon Slack, the willows held another YBW, plus Redstart and Tree Pipit, but I couldn't find much else in this area, although 3 Redwing flew over heading inland and a Merlin dashed through.

Snook House
Half-moon Slack
Tree Pipit

Onward, I walked up Chare Ends (seeing another YBW and a Wheatear) into the north dunes and across to the Excavations. A Lapland Bunting flew over calling, and I also came across a very late a juvenile Cuckoo. Walking down Straight Lonnen and back out to the coast on Crooked Lonnen I didn't see much else until I got to the Lough, where there were 4 Whinchats, with 3 more Wheatears near the castle. Ending up in the village, there were 2 Pied Flys in the Vicar's Garden. News then came on of a Wryneck back at the end of Straight Lonnen in the dunes. 

Juv Cuckoo
Straight Lonnen

Heading back to the car to top up my water, I decided to go back to Snook House and plantation (which was very quiet - still no Barred Warbler), before going to look at the Wryneck. Bumping into the finder, one of the aforementioned locals, he gave me directions. I eventually located the broken green plastic chair which marked the area the bird had been favouring, but I couldn't find the bird itself. Annoyingly, the area was one I had walked through 3 or 4 earlier - I still need Wryneck for my self-found list! Neverthless, it had been a good day, and my personal totals were 1 Lapland Bunting, 4 YBW, 3 Redstart, 2 Pied Fly, 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Blackcap, 2 Willow Warbler, 3 Chiffchaff, 2 Goldcrest, 4 Wheatear, 4 Whinchat, 3 Redwing, 27 Song Thrush, 1 Tree Pipit and 1 Cuckoo - so not bad. 

The next day I had another wander on the island, deciding to bypass the Snook and instead walking up Chare Ends. I again couldn't locate the Wryneck, but the juv Cuckoo was still present; however, there was nothing of note in the Vicar's Garden. Time was ticking on, and with the window to cross back to the mainland fast approaching, I decided not to visit the Snook - which proved to be a mistake, with another Wryneck found by the other of yesterday's locals in the scrub by the carpark! Hey ho. 

The Vicar's Garden

I headed back towards Bamburgh via Budle Bay, where a Spoonbill was asleep - this came as a surprise, but had apparently been present for a few days. There were also hundreds of geese - Pale-bellied Brents, Pink-feet and Barnacles.


At Bamburgh, I worked through the first willow clump where one of the YBW's was still present along with a Redstart, then seeing a tweet about a 'small white goose' which had gone south-east over Lindisfarne. Guessing this may have been headed to Budle Bay I dashed back there, but all I could find was a Bar-headed Goose, looking pale at range, in with the Barnies. However, photos suggested the original culprit was a white Barnacle. 

Bar-headed Goose (heavy crop!)

I returned to Bamburgh, but the only other bird of note was another Redstart. By now it was getting on for later in the afternoon, and having promised not to be back late, I headed home; however, I had also missed a Pacific Golden Plover which had been found in fields to the east of Straight Lonnen over high tide!

Bamburgh Castle - and plenty of habitat!

All in all a good trip, even with the dips and lack of any notable finds. I'll be back...


  1. I'm amazed you could get good photos in that awful flat light, I never can

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.