"Siberian" Chiffchaff ssp. tristis Cresswell Pond
The weekend was supposed to be a trip up to the North-East to see the Isabelline Wheatear, under the pretence of taking my youngest daughter, Saffron, to see her grand parents. Unfortunately, the bird did a bunk and I was left to decide how best to salvage my birding.
Cresswell Pond, indeed the whole coast between St. Mary's Island and Hauxley, was my birding patch over 30 years ago, long before I moved to Norfolk and it still remains my favourite birding spot. Birding with Andy, Frank & Martin was always a high point of the week. So naturally that is where I headed off to.
Saturday was dreary, damp and quite breezy and I had a quick sea watch from one of the cliff top car parks South of Cresswell village. Not a lot of birds but 2 Little Auks moving South were nice. At Cresswell Pond I had a slow walk down the track to the hide. Lots of Tree Sparrows here and mixed finches. An unusual, thin "peep" caught my attention and pointed me to a grey looking Chiffchaff with the hint of a wing bar. A nice "Siberian" Chiffchaff. It showed well to a number of visitors and came quite close. A pair of Stonechats were feeding along the fence line.
"Siberian" Chiffchaff, Cresswell Pond
The water level was high but the pond held a large number of mixed waders plus Red-breasted Merganser and Goldeneye. A Little Egret was also present. An unseen threat flushed out a lot of waders and a Jack Snipe was seen flying off with 3 Common Snipe.
From Cresswell I headed to Newbiggin to have a look at the Black Redstarts. There were 4 of them flying around the beach and adjacent caravans.
Black Redstarts, Newbiggin-By-The-Sea
I headed back toward the bay to look for Andy's Grey Phalarope but there was no sign. There were however, 19 Mediterranean Gulls. That was Saturday.
Sunday was pretty similar except for the lack of Little Auk but 2 Red-throated Divers in their place. The Siberian Chiffchaff was still at Cresswell Pond but not seen after 9:15. I flushed a Jack Snipe from in front of the hide as I opened the shutters and it flew to the North side of the pond. A good mix of waders and wildfowl were still present including several skeins of Pink-footed Geese. An unseasonal visitor appeared in the form of an Avocet which fed along the pond edge. Also notable was a flock of almost 100 Goldfinches feeding in the dunes.
Next stop, almost ritualistically, was Church Point at Newbiggin. More great views of the Black Redstarts and also a flock of 12 Purple Sandpipers feeding on the rocks newly exposed by the receding tide. Time to rescue my parents from Saffron and get some home cooking into the bargain. It was then that a 1w Glaucous Gull was found on the breakwater just a few hundred yards away. The first of the winter.
Stonechat, Cresswell Pond
Purple Sandpiper, Church Point, Newbiggin
Glaucous Gull, 1st winter, Church Point, Newbiggin
All done you might think. No. A small detour was required as we headed South. A few minutes after starting the journey we were watching 2 Waxwings in trees at the entrance to Blyth Docks. Best not mention the missed "5 minute Bonaparte's Gull" at Swallow Pond. Grump.
Common Buzzard, Thornham