Sea and Sunshine

It’s been a glorious day today here in Northumberland. We headed to Howick for a dog walk and there was a parking space by the Coastal Path so K and Buddy headed off for a walk and I sat and knitted and watched the birds.

There were two pairs of eider ducks swimming close to the shore showing some breeding behaviour, throwing their heads up. The females are a nondescript brown (and fairly well camouflaged when they are on the nest) but the males are a striking black and while – you can’t miss them really. My favourite thing about eiders however is the sound they make – they don’t quack, they coo!

There were also lots of fulmars flying about. They nest on the cliffs here. Superficially they look like gulls, but whereas gulls have a “W” shaped outline, with bent wings, the fulmar has straight wings and glides over the water – it is more closely related to the petrels and shearwaters. If disturbed they spit a foul smelling oil. Not nice!

A few oystercatchers flew past emitting their piping call.

I was lucky enough to see a couple of dolphins swim past – all summer when there was loads of dolphin activity along the coast we saw nothing and here were a couple when we hadn’t;t particularly set our to find them. Typical!

Not long before we left, couple of canoes went by. – what a perfect day to be on the water.

On the Coast: Ponies, Eider Ducks and Signs of Spring

We had a drive up the coast today and came across these ponies on Annstead Dunes , a Northumberland Wildlife Trust nature reserve north of Beadnell. This was a small herd of six Exmoor Ponies, one of our native breeds. They were brought here some years ago as part of the reserve’s management plan. Several groups of ponies graze on the course grasses, which allows wildflowers to grow, improving the biodiversity of the site.

The Exmoors are very distinctive: bay with a pale “mealy” muzzle, pale underside and ring around the eye. We catch sight of them regularly when we drive up this stretch of coast, sometimes grazing, sometimes trotting along the dunes in a tight herd. It’s always lovely to see them.

We drove south to Howick, where there is a place to park by the Northumberland Coastal Path. K took the dog for a walk while I looked around to see what I could see and did some knitting.

The sea was quite calm, so conditions were reasonable for spotting whales and dolphins but nothing was about, and not many birds either, just a few gulls and a pair of eider ducks.

You can just make them out as dots on the water: the striking black and white male and the drab brown female. Eiders often mate for life. It’s too early in the for this pair to be breeding yet though.

With nothing else about, I got on with my knitting. I’m still making my socks -it’s a very compact portable project for knitting on the go.

There are some definite signs of spring about. We saw these winter aconites growing under a hedge on our trip out today.

All of a sudden there are clumps of snowdrops everywhere, including these in our garden. We do often get snow in February or even March, so winter will be with us for a while yet, but it always feels positive to see the first flowers of the year.

What is your favourite sign of spring?