Berwick – a bird watching paradise


Thanks a lot for all your waxwing sightings, which are still coming in. Most poignant was from A.F. who told me he had a solitary bird which he watched from his kitchen window.

He was quite excited as he hadn’t seen a waxwing for years. His excitement, however, was short lived, as was the bird, as minutes later it flew into the window and broke its neck.

On a happier note, I recently hopped on a bus for my annual bird watching day out to Berwick and what a joy it turned out to be. I chose a gloriously sunny day for the job and after a particularly early start, I arrived in Berwick at around 10am, just as the sun was warming up.

I left the bus at the station and cut down by the castle, heading for the river, as I planned to walk up the estuary to the bypass bridge, before exploring the coast. The first bird I encountered was a kestrel, hovering above the steep grassy bank and it was a good bird to kick off the day’s birding.

There is a good path all the way to the bridge and it was here I stopped to chat to an elderly man who spoke with a strong local accent. He was watching something in a patch of scrub and curiosity got the better of me, so I had to stop. He said he thought he could see bullfinches in a low hawthorn tree, but wasn’t sure as his eyesight was failing. He was once a keen bird watcher, but sadly he now struggled. His vision may have been impaired, but he was spot-on with his identification, as I quickly had them located with my binoculars.

The tide was fully in as I moved up the river, causing hundreds of birds to rest on the big grassy island in midstream, until the water receded, exposing their food supply once more. There were lapwings, curlews, redshanks, cormorants, herons and several gull species, which all added to my already growing bird list for the day.

Once over the bridge, the path returns to Berwick, bordering arable fields, providing a different habitat and hence some different birds. Here I watched large flocks of linnets and chaffinches feeding on seeds in a set-aside field, while on the river a huge mixed flock of Canada and greylag geese quietly contemplated their next move.

Once back in town, I re-crossed the river by the old bridge and headed for the beach behind the pier to try and track down some waders. Before that I had a warming coffee from my flask and a couple of rolls, out of the cold wind, in the wooden shelter by the pier. Here, I was entertained watching a couple of gulls tap-dancing on the mown grass. The patter of their feet sounds like heavy rain to unsuspecting worms, who head for the surface and quickly become lunch. As I watched the birds were amazingly successful.

On the beach, the receding tide provided an epic display of wading birds all chasing the waves to scoop up the countless invertebrates stirred up by the surf.

The species watched were into double figures with grey plover and purple sandpiper probably the best. All too soon it was time to head back into town for my bus back home, but not before I had logged a creditable 44 species. Not a bad November day’s birding.