Sunday, 9 January 2011

St Mary's Island, Northumberland 9th January 2011

The family and I zipped up the Newcastle today to visit our son, so whilst up there I also took the opportunity to have an hour at a favourite place of mine, St Mary's Island. This "island" is a small piece of land located just off the coast near Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, with a lighthouse on it that is surrounded by the sea at high tide. At low tide, as it was today when I got there, it's possible to walk across to the lighthouse, but for a birder, the best thing about this site is the large expanse of sand and rocks which are exposed, providing excellent feeding and roosting opportunities for a wide range of waders.

                                                                      St Mary's Island

The first birds that you see as you arrive at this site are the dozens of Black-headed Gulls hanging around the car park. The odd Common Gull was in amongst them, but they were much shyer and kept down to the rocks. Waders were everywhere, the most obvious and noisy being Turnstones, but there were also good numbers of Ringed Plover (at least 10), Sanderling ( a flock of approximately 50/60 feeding on the waters edge), Knot (80+), Golden Plover (60+), Curlew (10+) in the fields by the entrance, Dunlin (10), Redshank (20+), Purple Sandpiper (2) and Oystercatcher (30+). In addition to the waders I also noted a Rock Pipit and a Pied Wagtail feeding on the rocks.

                                                       Common and Black-headed Gull

                                                         Roosting Knot and Oystercatcher

In addition to being an excellent site for a winter's day visit, it is also worth noting that the rocks are a great site in late summer (end of August especially), for roosting Terns from the nearby Farne Islands. It is particularly good for adult and juvenile Roseate Terns! Hopefully  more about that later in the year.

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