Trip reports

Coach outing to Holy Island and Lindisfarne NNR

Coach outing to Holy Island and Lindisfarne NNR
Lunchtime! - Winnie Thomson

Sunday, 14 May 2017

What a glorious day for our outing; warm sun, clear skies, brilliant light and no wind. It has to be said that some eyes were on the ice cream van as well as the birds as a necessary way of cooling down.
Heading firstly into the village we encountered 3 common members of the crow family, lots of starlings, and gutterings busy with house sparrows. The trees of the Vicarage garden and churchyard area gave us chaffinch, goldfinch, wren, robin, mistle thrush, blackbird, woodpigeon, collared dove and blue tit. It was really good to see a spotted flycatcher but, despite our efforts, we couldn't locate the calling chiffchaff. Likewise, the great tit and yellowhammers were playing hard-to-get.

The views across to St. Cuthbert's Island and out across the sands were excellent. There were lots of St. Cuthbert's "own" duck, the eider, and cormorant, grey heron, goosander, oystercatcher, lapwing, turnstone, dunlin, redshank, bar-tailed godwit and curlew. However, the stars of the waders were the golden and grey plovers, looking dazzling in their summer finery.

Clambering up onto the section of whinsill called The Heugh we congregated at the former coastguard station lookout tower where Gill, one of the Lindisfarne Reserve volunteers, gave us a talk about the work that Natural England is doing on the island. At this time of year they do intensive nest-site protection for ringed plovers and 4 species of tern. We could see the fenced-off areas, and the swirling flocks of sandwich, common and arctic tern, but the little tern nesting site was a bit further away, and our scopes didn't pick up any of these. We were fascinated by the terns' regular "dread" behaviour. When disturbed by something they all took off as one and whirled around before settling back onto the sand. Also from this vantage point we saw hundreds of grey seals hauled out on the sands, and looking like an expanse of grey boulders. There are in the region of 2600 grey seals on the Reserve.

Moving down to the harbour area we added ringed plover, meadow pipit, pied wagtail and 3 species of gull; blacked-headed, herring and lesser black-backed to our sightings. Due to weeks of dry weather the Rocket Field pond was dry, so we headed back for lunch and a spot of sun-bathing while watching the swallows and swifts chasing insects.

In the afternoon we set off along the Straight Lonnen, which turned out to be quieter than expected. House martins and stock doves were around the farm, and a young song thrush was doing its best to hammer the shell of a snail. Skylarks were abundant, and linnet and pheasant were seen, plus several deer. Heading across the island to Emmanuel Head we were cautious not to step on the numerous "woolly bear" caterpillars of the tiger moths, and wheatear, stonechat and kestrel were noted.
Looking out over the North Sea we watched passing fulmars and gannets. 3 flying puffins, a manx shearwater, shelduck and guillemot were seen. Our next stop was the hide where we added sedge warbler, reed bunting, mute swan, mallard and moorhen.

We wandered back to the village - well, another ice cream wouldn't go amiss - and discussed the butterflies seen during the day. These included green veined white, wall, tortoiseshell, orange tip, red admiral, painted lady, and a fritillary of some sort, possibly a "dark green" that are found on the Island.
Adding Canada goose and common buzzard seen from the coach, we noted that our faces needed after-sun cream, and settled in for a relaxed journey home.

Val Donaldson,
Coach Outings Organiser