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
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.
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