Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Seahouses at sunrise

Seahouses harbour fishing boats North Sunderland Northumberland Northumbria coast sunrise
It takes a lot to get me out of bed early and even more to get me out of the house before the rest of the world are going about their daily business. The lure of a perfect sunrise coming up over the horizon of the North Sea was too good an opportunity to miss. So it was clothes on, coat zipped up and camera in hand to find out what we would see so early in the morning.
When we arrived at the point where the Northumberland Coastal Path runs along the top of the cliffs we could see it was low tide. When the tide is so low the Farne Islands in the distance can look like one one island. At high tide only 15 islands are visible but the low tide exposes around 28 rocky landmasses.
We didn't have to wait long for the sun to break through and start rising above the horizon. It was the start of a day of sunshine on the North Northumberland coast.
So early in the morning the surroundings seem calm at first sight. The rocks are still slippy from the seawater and more is added by the high waves.
Many people think the stone building is a safety shelter for anyone who gets trapped by the rising tide. It's actually a Powder House built in 1886 in order to store explosives. The gunpowder was needed for blasting when the New Pier and Harbour were being built. In 1997 this sandstone structure was designated Grade II Listed Building status.
There was more than just a beautiful sunrise that got me out of bed. The thought of being able to watch some sea birds without the crowds was very appealing. On the other side of the harbour is the start of the rocks known as The Tumblers. During the day the tourists gather here to book boat trips and feed the birds chips but at this time of day the assortment of birds have to fend for themselves.
Famous in these parts are eider ducks or as they are known locally as 'cuddy' ducks after St. Cuthbert. When St. Cuthbert set up residence on the Farne Islands in 676 he also made sure the local bird population were protected as well. As such they have become Northumberland's emblem bird. Unusually for wildfowl they are an entirely marine bird. The feathers of the eider duck were once used to stuff eiderdowns but now duvets are more commonly filled with the feathers from farmed ducks.
These rocks make a good hunting ground for the little turnstones that can be spotted running over the rocks. Here they can easily feed on small invertebrates which they find by searching through seaweed, shells and small stones.
Also favouring the rocky pools for feeding purposes was a redshank. Inland the redshank population is declining but on the coast there is still plenty of marine worms, crustaceans and molluscs for them to feast on.
Oystercatchers are one of my favourite birds. I'm not sure why they appeal so much. Maybe it's a combination of their distinctive black and white plumage coupled with the long orange bill. Although it's not not very helpful for photography purposes I do also like the way they scurry across the rocks in search of food before breaking open a mussel or cockle shell. With the oystercatcher photographed it was time for us to go back and have our breakfast.



  1. Great shots!
    Thanks for linking up at

  2. I love these wading birds, particularly turnstones after watching them scurrying around a harbour in Cornwall. No wonder you got up for sunrise - it's beautiful.

  3. how marvellous to live so close to the beach with so much to see and do when you're there

  4. I need a seaside trip soon to do a bit of wader watching ... redshanks and turnstones are a couple of birds I can easily recognise but I have never knowingly seen any eider ducks. Thanks fro adding the second post about redshanks to #AnimalTales.


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