Wild­fowl in Druridge Bay

Here a sandy beach shines like an arc of gold along­side the North Sea, while just in­land a rib­bon of lakes host mi­grat­ing birds from Rus­sia, says An­thony Toole

Countryfile Magazine - - Contents -

Northum­ber­land

C

urv­ing five-milein a arc smooth north from Cress­well to Bondi Carrs, a few miles south of Al­nwick, Druridge Bay is the finest stretch of dunes and un­bro­ken sandy beach in Northum­ber­land. Shel­tered be­hind the dunes are a se­ries of thriv­ing wet­land na­ture re­serves owned by Northum­ber­land Wildlife Trust.

The re­serves are formed from a se­ries of min­ing sub­si­dence and open cast sites, for this now quiet coast­line has seen its share of in­dus­try. A mile from the southern end of the bay Elling­ton Col­liery, the last deep coal mine in the re­gion (and the last in the UK to ex­tract coal from be­neath the sea), closed in 2005.

Spread around the shores of th­ese re­serves are sev­eral bird hides where, through­out the year, you can see large num­bers of birds. Each of the re­serves has its unique char­ac­ter, and while the va­ri­ety of birds varies, each is fre­quented by its own group of devo­tee species.

WEL­COME MI­GRANTS

Cress­well Pond, a Site of Spe­cial Sci­en­tific In­ter­est, is a shal­low, brack­ish pool, linked to the sea. When the wa­ter level is low, gath­er­ings of lap­wings, golden plovers, red­shanks and curlews for­age on the ex­posed mud­flats while snipe, herons or a se­cre­tive wa­ter rail may be seen around the mar­gins. Av­o­cets and egrets nested here in re­cent years.

To the north, the deeper Druridge Pools and its sur­round­ing wet fields bring in wild­fowl such as coots, moorhens, gold­eneyes and wigeons. Con­tin­u­ing north are the two lakes of East Chev­ing­ton, where terns, gulls and grey­lag geese pop­u­late the is­lands, with reed buntings (plus sedge war­blers in spring and sum­mer) in the ex­ten­sive reedbeds. In au­tumn, large flocks of mi­grants and pas­sage birds ar­rive from Rus­sia and Scan­di­navia to aug­ment the res­i­dents. Th­ese in­clude pink-footed geese, whooper swans, redwings and field­fares. At the slight­est dis­tur­bance, th­ese rise en masse in a noisy spec­ta­cle above the pools and fields.

THE SURF­ING DUCKS

You might also catch the oc­ca­sional rar­ity, such as the yel­low­leg, wood sand­piper and spoon­bill that turned up here re­cently.

Af­ter vis­it­ing the pools, enjoy a walk along the beach, where you may see eider ducks rid­ing the waves and san­der­lings, turn­stones, oys­ter­catch­ers and ringed plovers at the edge of the tide.

The golden sands of Druridge Bay stretch for miles, backed by dunes

Spot a shy wa­ter rail

An­thony Toole is a free­lance writer, pho­tog­ra­pher and out­door en­thu­si­ast.

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