THE STRAIGHT LONNING
The history of Holy Island has been as much about monks as migrant birds, so many of the people who flock to it may have a different religion to the birder looking for a good migrant. I have travelled here many times, not by walking barefoot across the sands, but driving over the causeway at low tide. I have always loved the island for what it is – full of history and often birds, some common but always different in their location. The Straight Lonning is as magical as the abbey and the castle to birders, such is the anticipation as you walk along after an easterly in spring and especially autumn. One of my best days here saw eight Bluethroats. None on the first walk down, just a Red-backed Shrike, but they were all hiding on the west side of the hedge out of the wind, along with Redstarts and Pied Flycatchers. An autumn trip found American Golden Plovers and Buffbreasted Sandpiper in the fields on the right and a King Eider at the point. The list can go on and on, but a dip for me was the White’s Thrush in 2016, but still a great day with Yellow-browed Warbler and a Short-eared Owl off the sea. Lots of thrushes in can mean Ring Ouzels, while Goldcrests are everywhere. The Rocket Field pools at the start of your walk can have several species of duck from Wigeon to Teal, and always the odd wader from Curlew to Pectoral Sandpiper. The House Sparrows by the farm and first part of the lonnen can be made into so many species when trying for a rarity. Out in the dunes you have to approach each bush in case a Long-eared or Short-eared Owl is roosting there. Then there is always the flyover pipit which you cannot get onto or the skulking Reed Bunting which is still only a Reed Bunting, while in the bushes there is that fly-by falcon which could have been a Merlin or just another Kestrel.
A migrant ‘trap’ on Holy Island