Trip reports

Low Newton and Holy Island

Low Newton and Holy Island
Robin (Richard Cowen)

Saturday, 30 September 2017

En route, on the A1 around Gateshead, a sparrowhawk was being mobbed by a carrion crow. Shortly after this two grey herons flew above the road. As we travelled north of Newcastle, a buzzard soared. Other than that, there were some common birds, woodpigeon, the odd magpie and carrion crow in particular.

At Low Newton, we parked some way from the beach and the ponds. The field alongside us seemed to be a very good example of the ancient ridge and furrow farming of yesteryear. There were no birds however until we got to the beach when a number of redshank were in the field and a couple of stonechat appeared on the scrub and fence. As we reached the beach, oystercatchers and gannets in particular could be seen. Herring and black-headed gulls were around. A few goldfinches and a pied wagtail were by the houses and, as we walked through the houses towards the ponds, a robin could be heard and many house sparrows squabbled among themselves. A song thrush was seen flying over and a skylark was also seen here.

The majority of us reached the ponds after the houses where a large gaggle of greylag geese were around the pond. Among them was a single pink-footed goose. Some lapwings stood in the water and curlews were in the field. Teal, mute swan, mallard and a few wigeon were on the water. After a while, a couple of little stint and dunlin were found. The little stint in particular caused some excitement. Behind us a chiffchaff appeared.

Meanwhile, a call from someone still on the beach revealed that there was a little egret there. Before we returned however to try to see it, we moved on to the hides. Although most of the birds visible here were the same as before, a few swallows came and skimmed the water for a while. A pair of buzzards could be seen in the distance.

We wandered back to the minibus but the little egret had now disappeared. We drove on to Holy Island. A few jackdaws were around Bamburgh Castle and later a mistle thrush flew beside us. At least one collared dove was also seen.

The tide was still quite well in as we drove over the causeway to Holy Island. While there were not many birds here, a huge flock could be seen at the far end of the causeway. At first we thought they may be golden plover and some were seen while we were on the Island.

From the bus park we went to the Vicarage. There were reports of yellow-browed warbler here but we were unable to find any. On the island opposite were large numbers of waders, curlew, black and bar-tailed godwits and a significant flock of knot flew in. Red-breasted mergansers and eiders were also present and a grey heron arrived. A flock of linnet passed over the garden. A ringed plover was seen further up on the beach between the Priory and the Castle. Perhaps the most noticeable thing was the noise from the grey seals, a continuous moaning call. There was a considerable number of them on the sandbanks now appearing with the falling tide.

We then returned via the village to the bus-park. Some house sparrows and starlings were here. We set out to walk along the Straight Lonnen to the north side of the island. There were some pied wagtails in the field by the bus-park and house sparrows around the farm. A few redwings, a pheasant and a wren were seen. A whinchat was seen on a fence and a couple of yellow-browed warblers did appear tantalisingly briefly in a willow tree. Further on however, a single yellow-browed was much more obliging in the little copse at the end of the path. A redstart was also here and chiffchaff and willow warbler were also present. A robin appeared from time to time. On the fence in the distance, a short-eared owl could be seen.

We then moved on to the coast and a small flock of reed bunting was noted. As we past the old quarries, a sparrowhawk appeared but there was little else seen or heard. Even the sea was quite quiet but there were gannets (mainly juvenile) fishing. A common gull was on the rocks as we watched them. A few eiders were on the sea and after careful scoping we found a guillemot. Some cormorants were drying their wings and a few curlews were again here. More oystercatchers were found on the rocks. As we walked along the beach towards the obelisk, a few more redshanks, bar-tailed godwits and sanderling patrolled. Some turnstones were found at the far end of the beach. Herring gulls and one or two lesser black-backed gulls were on some of the rocks. Some managed to see a rock pipit.

As we left the beach, we noted the amount of sea rocket that was in bloom. A large bumblebee, I believe a field cuckoo bumblebee, was walking over them. There was, however, nothing new at the obelisk and we moved on to the lake. Common waterfowl, mallard, moorhen, coot and teal were present along with a single tufted duck and a shoveler. Below us a little grebe ducked and dived. As we looked into the distance, the short-eared owl again appeared and a couple of roe deer were seen to jump one of the fences. As the last of us was about to leave, a fox appeared on the wall on the far side of the lake as a kestrel hovered over the fields.

It was then back to the minibus. Again, there were not many birds along here but, towards the village, a barn owl was found. Perched on a gate post, it stayed there for some time until a sparrowhawk spooked it. The owl appeared again however when we were back at the bus, hunting over the field on the other side of the road.

Apart from the little stint at Low Newton and the copse with the warblers and redstart, perhaps not the most successful visit to Holy Island but nevertheless an enjoyable one. Altogether, 66 species were recorded.

Richard Cowen

Trip List
1. Mute Swan
2. Pink-footed Goose
3. Greylag Goose
4. Wigeon
5. Teal
6. Mallard
7. Shoveler
8. Tufted Duck
9. Eider
10. Red-breasted Merganser
11. Pheasant
12. Gannet
13. Cormorant
14. Little Egret
15. Grey Heron
16. Little Grebe
17. Sparrowhawk
18. Common Buzzard
19. Moorhen
20. Oystercatcher
21. Golden Plover
22. Lapwing
23. Ringed Plover
24. Curlew
25. Bar-tailed Godwit
26. Turnstone
27. Knot
28. Sanderling
29. Dunlin
30. Little Stint
31. Redshank
32. Guillemot
33. Black-headed Gull
34. Common Gull
35. Herring Gull
36. Great Black-backed Gull
37. Woodpigeon
38. Collared Dove
39. Barn Owl
40. Short-eared Owl
41. Kestrel
42. Magpie
43. Jackdaw
44. Carrion Crow
45. Skylark
46. Swallow
47. Yellow-browed Warbler
48. Chiffchaff
49. Willow Warbler
50. Wren
51. Starling
52. Blackbird
53. Song Thrush
54. Redwing
55. Mistle Thrush
56. Robin
57. Redstart
58. Whinchat
59. Stonechat
60. House Sparrow
61. Pied Wagtail
62. Meadow Pipit
63. Rock Pipit
64. Linnet
65. Goldfinch
66. Reed Bunting