A Trip Up North
As the new year gets in full flow the 2017 year list has gotten off on a good foot; so today we headed up North to get our sights on two species of gulls. Arriving we were greeted to views of several numbers of Eider. This sea duck is the heaviest of the duck family in the UK, it very rarely strays away from its coastal habitat in which it dives or up-ends to feed on molluscs or slow moving crustaceans on the sea-bed. As in most ducks it’s the male that is the most striking, with a primarily white head, neck, chest and back. The breast, belly, sides, rump and tail are black; a white spot occurs on the black flank just before the tail.. The cheeks are pales green and the bill is olive-grey, turning yellowish near the facial area. Female eider are russet-brown to gray; they are heavily barred with dark brown lines on their backs, chests, breasts, sides and flanks.
After spending a while with the majestic Eiders we headed for the fish quay to look for two species of gull that we were hoping to see. However the quay has been taken over and they’ve put a fence all the way round and are now not allowed entry to view. Although just around the corner there is a car park where you can get reasonable views and where some birders were gathering. As a few minutes past one of birders shouted and we were greeted with some great views over head as an Iceland Gull flew past. We could also see on the water a Glaucous Gull so we decided to walk back round to the entrance of the fish quay and try to get in for better views. We were granted permission to enter but was a bit nervous when gates automatically locked behind us but we got great views of the Glauc and did manage to get back out.
Leaving here we headed inland and to a reserve that had been reported to have good views of long-eared owls. As this species was missed in 2016 I was eager to get it on my new year list. Upon arrival we were treated to views of a merlin as it sat perched distantly in a small bush before whizzing off out of sight.It was quite a walk to where the owl was and stopped for a while to see the magnificent Teal. In the winter light and stood on the ice the male duck, like the Eider, is stunning. Being the smallest of the duck family it is probably the most striking, the males have a cinnamon coloured head with an iridescent green band that spreads from one eye round the back of the head and to the other eye. The sides and back are marked with tiny black and white stripes, not to be mistaken the its relative the Green-winged Teal which has a horizontal white stripe. Moving on we passed a couple Stonechats and got to the location the owls were seen. After much searching we finally got close views of a single Long-eared Owl.
As we left we past a relatively large flock of Barnacle Geese and had to turn back for some pics as they flew off. Our next stop was further down the coast as to hopefully photograph some waders and see some sea ducks. The sea however was too rough to get any views of any bird life that was out there. There were plenty of waders to get us excited though from Redshanks to Oystercatchers and Turstones to Bar-tailed Godwits. We didn’t stay too long as their was one last stop we wanted to go before heading home. Back in November last year we visited a site that was housing an Eastern Black Redstart. Like our more common Black Redstart that does breed in the UK the eastern race is mainly from central Asia and is classed as a UK mega which means they are exceedingly rare. The most prominent difference is that the eastern race has an orange belly and black chest whereas the European race’s are all greyish black.
Eastern Black Redstart
My list for 2017 currently stands on 118 species and we are not even at the end of January yet, although I know it will start to get harder.