Northumberland and Upper Teesdale 15-19 June 2010
A selection of images on the link below..
We all met up on time at Whitminster at 0700 to allow a decent chance of getting some birding in as we travelled so after checking if all were up for a bit of en-route rarity searching we left Gloucestershire at 0700 and made for our first birding stop with a comfort rest before this. The first species we were looking for was a Great Reed Warbler that had taken up a territory on a small pond at Straw’s Bridge in Derbyshire. The bird gave good views as it sang and hopped around in a small patch of phragmites reed. This species is more of a Starling sized bird, showing a large red gape (inside of the beak) when cranking out its varied and loud song, it really performed well for all of us. The site was also good for other warblers and we heard or saw Lesser and Common Whitethroat, Reed, Sedge, Willow and Garden Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap. A pair of Bullfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Hobby was also noted.
Great Reed Warbler
After enjoying this lot we set off again this time for Saltholme RSPB and Port Clarence flood in Co. Durham. This site is near to Middlesbrough and set among the industry and factories of Teesside. The reserve was excellent, lots of birds to enjoy with the Common Tern and Sand Martin colonies being very busy. A few wader species were present as well as wildfowl. We took awhile to orientate ourselves as to where our target bird was feeding and eventually got to the correct place to look for it on a flooded field. A party of Ringed Plover and a single Dunlin were feeding along the edge of the wetland, Len picked up the Broad-billed Sandpiper first feeding near the other small waders. Seeing that we all had many scans with our scopes it made me think it must have been roosting in a cows footprint or skulking for the first thirty minutes that we looked for it as it was not initially on view. It was a very handsome bird, the split supercilium (double lines on the face and head above the eye) being seen well in the scopes and the rather unique structure of this small wader appreciated.
We still had some way to go until reaching our accommodation near Holy Island (Lindisfarne) but did try for a reported Red-backed Shrike en-route, it was not seen but 2 Grey Partridge were along with a variety of common passerines. We carried on north and checked in to our rooms and met for dinner to recount the birds we had enjoyed during the day. The weather had been great all day.
Most of us had an early start to look out across Fenham flats hopefully to see some waders but also to take in whatever else was about. A glorious start to the day, very calm and warm but the tide was very high and good weather had probably allowed any lingering migrants to move on so only the breeding and resident birds were seen. The highlight was probably the hundred or so Grey Seals bellowing in the shallows between us and Lindisfarne. After breakfast we headed for Seahouses to enquire about tickets to the Farne Islands but could not all get on the boat, I changed the schedule to go the next day and just did what was I had planned for day three a day earlier. This itinerary involved going to Beadnell Bay to have a look at the Arctic and Little Tern colony. We were not disappointed as a few Sandwich Terns were also present and Ringed Plover were also nesting. The Little Terns numbered around 20 pairs but the Arctic Terns 900 pairs. A few Reed Buntings were singing in the dunes as we walked to the wardens hut and many Drinker moth caterpillars were seen. An hour was spent enjoying the birds here.
We walked back along the long wide white sand beach and stopped a few times to look out into the bay where Gannets fed in the distance. As I had planned to visit a variety of wetland sites we had time allocated for each place with our first being Hauxley NR. Most of what we saw was what you expect for the time of year but a Pink-footed Goose among the Greylags and the Tree Sparrows were the pick of the birds. From here we went to East Chevington which is always productive thanks to the comings and goings of the terns. At least 8 first summer Little Gulls were seen and it was fun comparing Arctic and Common Terns alongside. A couple of days after we returned home a Bridled Tern was photographed here bathing and drinking on the rocks! We searched for the local Marsh Harriers but had no luck over the vast reedbeds however the sheep management by reserve staff was appreciated by a few members of the group.
We then tried Cresswell Pond which was unusually very quiet and then Druridge Pools which had birds but was difficult viewing as the vegetation had grown in front of the hides. A Meadow Pipit displayed above us on the track. Our time was up as I had booked the boat to take us out to Coquet Island to view the Roseate Terns among other things. It sure was a lovely summer evening for enjoying these pink flushed terns, we had taken turns to go out in the boat to stop by the quay then moor up to watch them at the entrance to their nest boxes, on the terraces or flying around the colony. Pairs of the Roseate Terns were seen with chicks, sky pointing and other courtship displays. The island is also home to large numbers of seabirds which were all much in evidence. I stayed with part of the group whilst Neil went out first, we searched the hill near where to Red-backed Shrike was last seen but did not locate it. My group went out second and on our return found they had not looked for the shrike but had been in the pub! Another good day but time for a rest and a meal so we headed back for the evening.
This time we headed straight for Seahouses and prepared to board the boat for the Farne Islands. We visited Staple Island first with ample time ashore to enjoy the seabirds before then moving to Inner Farne, we had to wait awhile for the tide to come in to allow us to get off the boat and shore. This was a very special bird filled day in marvellous weather , I will leave the images to tell the story as it was such a good day for photgraphy. On the way home and after a tea we stopped at Budle Bay for half an hour before heading back for a meal.
Kittiwake and chick
The forecast was for a sunny dry day but with a cooler wind coming in off the sea, we headed North into Scotland to look at a few sites, the first stop was at Tantallon Castle where a couple of Grey Partridge were seen briefly in a roadside crop and were calling, nearby I spotted an Osprey circling over the field. We all climbed out at a safe layby and scoped the bird before it climbed high and moved off. We tried to gain a view of Bass Rock and the Gannetry but would have to pay to enter the castle grounds so a short drive up the road gave us a good view of this marvellous sight. The Gannets were flying from the rock to the cliffs where we were watching from to collect seaweed for their nests, they struggled we beakfuls of the weed, a Whitethroat sang on the clifftop bushes. We then drove through Berwick upon Tweed and stopped at a Tesco for food/comfort, back in the bus and on to Aberlady Bay where we continued on as the tide was well out and then stopped for a scan of the sea at a better vantage point. There were auks, Gannets and a few common waders,the Bar-tailed Godwits in the distant heat haze was the only exception and a party of 5 Common Scoter flew in and around before heading off again.
We loaded up and set off for St Abb’s head for a hike up and over the headland to where the auks were breeding and took a route down a steep set of steps below the headland where we stopped for a short seawatch and eventually back around the hill to the car park. We had a cool breeze but it was sunny so pleasant enough to find a Northern Brown Argus butterfly. This was a real leg stretcher and when we got back to the visitor centre everyone was certainly ready for a drink and sit down at the cafe. After this break it was time to get to Lindisfarne for the afternoon, a long walk around the East side of the Island was taken by all but Len and Jean who spent their time photographing the village and castle. We did see a party of Red-breasted Merganser splashing about offshore but the walk provided only common breeding birds plus the orchids. When we got back to the bus we thought it best to get off before the tide cut us off. We finished up at 5.00pm as we were so close to our hotel and rested before dinner.
Sadly we had to return South again but I think we had seen pretty much everything on offer in this part of Britain and we still had to yet visit Upper Teesdale. Apart from a stop to check on a Buzzard, it was only a Buzzard we made straight for the target area, we saw plenty of breeding waders and their chicks plus a family of Pheasants. A Common Sandpiper was busy on the river as we crossed the bridge and eventually Jean called out that the grouse you see on the whisky bottles were alongside the bus. A male and female Red Grouse with a chick were indeed close to the road. Delighted with this we then headed for the Langdon Beck hotel for coffee and a comfort stop where pair of Spotted Flycatcher were feeding on the sheltered side of the pines. On leaving I heard a few Siskin calling and another check of the stream gave us no Dippers. We parked up for a walk to Widdybank Fell which by now has become breezy and a little overcast. A juvenile Ring Ouzel was on the track and feeding along the verges which proved popular and another Common Sandpiper was seen. At the farm we sheltered next to a trailor and watched Wheatears, Red Grouse and Golden Plover on the hillside, Neil had spotted two male Black Grouse feeding on the buttercups which was great. The population had been affected by the cold winter so it was pleasing to catch up with them today. Nearby Beryl has discovered another pair of Ring Ouzel feeding the young on a wall and foraging in the paddock. All this and breeding Snipe, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Curlew and Lapwing as well as the other species mentioned.
Juv. Ring Ouzel
It was time to go home and end the trip but we did well and had great weather and birding.
Martin J McGill