Lindisfarne and Alnmouth, April 2019

 

We recently took an Easter break up the coast in Northumberland, visiting Warkworth, Alnmouth, Bamburgh, Belford, and finishing on Lindisfarne. Though the weather wasn’t as good as it had been a few days earlier, it was still great to see some British species thriving.

Lindisfarne has a wild and rugged beauty, a tidal island out into the North Sea with dunes and tussocky grassland across much of it. That grassland was proving a reliable home for lots of pairs of two classic British farmland/meadowland birds – the skylark, and the meadow pipit. It was impossible to walk more than a few feet without flushing a pair, only for them to drop out of sight again immediately.

There is a bird here, promise – but what?

But with a little patience, both birds did pop out long enough to get a few pictures.

I always forget that pipits are much smaller than I remember them, so any time I spot one my first thought is it’s a bunting of some description. But no, these were pipits.

We have a long-standing joke, that I’ve probably aid before, that you identify a pipit based on what it’s standing on. Based on that, we have a wall pipit and a scrub pipit here. But the streaky flanks suggest both are meadow pipits.

Skylarks are often heard rather than seen, the males launching into stratospheric song flights that take them out of the eyesight of many. But if you get lucky you will see them on the ground too.

Both these species are ground-nesting birds, and will use humps and divots in the grass, made by grazing sheep or cattle, to provide sheltered nest sites.

On the seas there were terns fishing, gulls, plus gannets moving south along the coast. There were also those Northumbria specialities, the eider.

I’ve hardly ever seen eider out of the water, so it was funny as the waters receded from the causeway to see three waddle across the tarmac.

Very incongruous! Happily they were quickly back in the water where they look so much more at home.

Elsewhere, in fact on the mainland at Alnmouth, it was great to see a redshank along the estuary, practicing its ballet moves.

I love these waders, and it’s great to see the beautiful marking along the breast and back, as well as the eponymous red legs.

Anyway, I’m going to breeze past the three month absence from the blog, and leave you with another skylark, this time showing the distinctive crest.

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I welcome thoughts, comments and questions, so please feel free to share anything at all. Thanks, David

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