Warkworth & the Coquet Estuary

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Warkworth Estuary looking towards Amble
Warkworth & the Coquet Estuary

Warkworth & the Coquet Estuary

Six miles (9.6km) south east of Alnwick lies the picturesque coastal village of Warkworh.Built in a classic defensive position inside a horseshoe of the River Coquet, its neck cut-off by the castle, ' that worm-eaten hold of ragged stone' according to Shakespeare's Henry IV. The village retains its quiet elegance and old world charm.It is an ideal base from which to explore the River Coquet, Druridge bay and The Farne Islands, having many fine pubs and and places to eat, gift shops and gallery's.
From the birdwatchers point of view, the variety of habitats and perhaps more importantly, its accessibility makes this area probably the best in Northumberland with Hauxley and Druridge Bay only 3 miles away, Coquet Island 1 mile offshore and other good birding areas such as Craster and The Farne islands only half an hours drive.There are essentially two main walks around Warkworth, but combined they will provide the visiting birdwatcher with a taste of all the habitats and subsequently the greater number of species.

The River Walk

The River Walk

Start your walk at the Norman bridge which has a fortified gatehouse and was the only crossing point for traffic until 1965.Continue along the river bank past the Norman church of St Lawrence, which has its own detailed guide available.From here the footpath follows the river past a weir where heron, Black-headed gull and mallard can usually be found and this spot will often have fishing Sandwich tern (usually evening in summer).Goosander, Common Sandpiper, Redshank and Grey wagtail.Winter brings Goldeneye and although usually found further downstream, divers and grebes are not unknown.
At the first bend in the river, below the castle, rowing boats can be hired in the summer (look for pied and grey wagtail and bats in the summer). The woodland here has the usual species associated with this type of habitat;- Sparrowhawk(pictured), Great-spotted woodpecker, tits, treecreeper, blackcap, garden warbler, robin.This is also a good place to seee Red Squirrel.There is also a chance of seing elusive otter on this stretch of the river.

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Warkworth 'Gut' and the Coquet Estuary

Warkworth 'Gut' and the Coquet Estuary

The River Coquet once entered the sea further north than its present day position, until a great storm in 1765 forced the river to change its course.This left a series of islands, an un-navigable sand bar and Warkworth harbour silted up.Access to the sea became hazardous until in 1836 a breakwater was built to change the river flow.Accordingly the town of Amble was born and by the following year, with the formation of the Warkworth arbour Commision, a thriving port known as 'little Liverpool' was in operation.Coaling staithes were constructed and Amble built up a fine fleet of brigs, brigatines and schooners all engaged in the coal trade with Scandinavia or London.By the mid 1960's however with the local mines defunct, ships requiring bigger, deeper ports and the closure of the National Coal Board staithes, the ports importance declined leaving only the small fishing fleet.
The estuary can be viewed from both the north and south sides of the river.The north side has the greater divesification of habitat but involves a good walk, viewing from the south can be done from the Marina area and picnic site.
Walking to the 'Gut' again starts at the Norman bridge and crossing the river one should head towards the cemetery and beach, up a steep tree lined road with a football field to the right.Alternatively you can drive to the end of the road and the car park picnic site.Driving however misses out on the cemetery, which is a favoured spot for Tree Sparrow,Nuthatch and Bullfinch and also possible migrants in the Spring and Autumn.
At the end of this lane, (the car park here has toilets) a gravel track leads straight down to the dunes with the golf course on the left and the 'gut' on the right. By climbing on to the highest dunes there are excellent views accross the bay and any seabird movements are obvious.(good place to see terns and Skuas in summer, fishing gannets and in winter divers and grebes).
The track to the 'gut' , estuary and north pier skirts a large area of rough grassland punctuated by hawthorn and gorse.Skylark, meadow pipit and stonechat(above) are common here.In the middle of the grassland lies an area of reedbed, home to reed bunting and in summer, Sedge and Grashopper warbler (below) (listen for their constant 'reeling' sound, often delivered from any raised vegetation).

Excellent views over the whole estuary

Excellent views over the whole estuary

Depending on the state of the tide, the section after the breakwater will have wading birds either very close feeding on the muddy margins of the old water saltmarsh.With this in mind, as with all estuaries, a telescope would be an advantage, binoculars a must.However the track here gives excellent views over the whole estuary with its sunken barges revealed at low water,one or two of them original Tyne keels of 'Weel may the keel row' fame.Waders here are dominated on a year round basis by Redshank, but in winter they are outnumbered by Golden plover 300+ with good numbers of Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Turnstone, and Ringed Plover (pictured), smaller numbers of Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, occasional Knot and Purple Sandpiper (north pier and staithes), whilst the beach area has Sanderling.Continue your walk to the harbour area and look for Shelduck, Eider, Little Egret, Cormorant and Gulls.Winter ofen brings 'White-winged gulls' such as Iceland, and Glaucous which is usually annual.

Birdlife

Birdlife

All Year; Gannet (sea), Cormorant, Heron, Mute Swan, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Eider, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Grey Partridge, Pheasant, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Snipe, Curlew, Redshank, Turnstane, Black-headed gull, Herring gull, Great-black-backed gull, Guillemot , puffin and razorbill (sea), Woodpigeon, Skylark, Meadow pipit, Pied Wagtail, Tree Sparrow (cemetery area) Stonechat.
Spring-summer; Lesser Black-backed gull, Sandwich tern, Roseate Tern (harbour), Arctic tern, Little tern (sea), Cuckoo (gut), Sand Martin, Yellow Wagtail, Wheatear, Grasshopper Warbler (top), Sedge warbler (right).
Late Autumn winter;- Arrival of passage waders including Curlew Sandpiper,Whimbrel,Spotted Redshank and Greenshank July / sept.Shearwarter passage, Manx and sooty (May/June -July / Oct).Passage migrants can include Black redstart, Barred and Yellow-browed Warbler, Wryneck.Winter brings Divers and sea duck (sea), Scaup and grebes to the estuary Regular Slavonian grebe, Brent goose, Peregrine (very regular), Jack snipe, Short-eared owl and Twite.
Rarities seen include White pelican, Chilean Flamingo, Night Heron, Crane, Bee-eater, Hoopoe and Common Rosefinch.

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Birdwatching at Warkworth & surrounding area ?

Birdwatching at Warkworth & surrounding area ?

Coquet Leisure park sits elevated above the Coquet Estuary with spectacular views of Warkworth Gut and the North Sea.Click the banner for more information.

Recent bird photographs from Warkworth
Birding Video from Warkworth
Warkworth Twitter
Warkworth Links
Warkworth & Amble Services & Accommodation
Suggested Birding walks around Warkworth

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