I realise I’m a bit behind at the moment, after what I can only describe as an amazing autumn of birding with trips to Shetland (Part 2 of that trip report can soon be seen in the post above this on the homepage) and Norfolk both being successful. From 13th-26th Oct I wasn’t in Aberdeen, with most birding being done in Norfolk. I did manage a bit of birding away from the aforementioned county, namely at the beginning of the holiday in Durham and briefly in London mid way through.
On 13th Oct I stayed the night with Simeon Grundy down in Durham, planning to go birding with him and Andrew Kinghorn the next day. When Andrew arrived at the door at 8:30am that morning I was glad to see he had another recruit with him; Michael Murphy, a young birder I had not met until this point. The day was spent being given a tour of a few Teeside sites and at Rainton Meadows NNR looking for an emerging Durham speciality – Willow Tit. This was all after an early morning visit to Lambton Pond, an inland pond near the River Wear which looked promising for waders but was a little high and thus held no more than a few Lapwings scattered around its periphery. Wandering down to the River Wear itself was productive, finally producing my first Dipper of the year, a vocal bird seen zipping from one end of the river to the next.
Onwards to Rainton Meadows, where we found ourselves spending far more time in search of Willow Tit than we had imagined. The hour and a half or so that we were there was very frustrating, with Andrew and Michael both struggling to believe that this normally very easy to see species was being so recalcitrant. A couple were heard distantly early on, but did not materialise, and this seemed to be the case with tit species in general. I had to wait until the last minute before I went off on my own accord and finally connected with a single Willow Tit calling from a tree top, which I managed fleeting arse-end views of as it flew from one tree to another and out of sight on my approach… I was relieved to have finally seen this species, but was disappointed by the amount of effort put in for very minimal reward. Also in the area were at least 15 Lesser Redpolls, two Siskins and a Great-spotted Woodpecker. Hopefully I will fare much better here for this species in the future.
The rest of the day was spent being shown round Teeside, where we took in both Salthome RSPB and Hartlepool Headland. Salthome reminded me of Strathbeg but in a slightly flatter and uglier environment, with fantastic reedbed habitat and pools with scrapes but both a factory and Middlesborough looming tall in the distance. The reserve did not produce anything particularly noteworthy, but was not without good numbers of commoner species, highlights including 5 Golden Plovers, 4 Pintail, Little Egret and a nice Marsh Harrier; a reserve I hope to visit again in the future. With time becoming limited before my train, we headed to Hartlepool Headland for the last hour. As we passed through Seaton Carew, Andrew and Michael were in hysterics about a rather smart winter plumaged Meditarrean Gull they pointed out on a lampost as we drove past. This Med Gull has apparently been favouring the same lamppost on a more or less daily basis for several years and can easily be seen on almost every occasion that you pass through the area; old habits die hard!
News of a stonking male Pied Wheatear on Holy Island got the others excited, aware that they could go for this after dropping me off at the station back in Durham. I did my best not to let this put a downer on the day and enjoyed a brief seawatch with Michael and an amble round Hartlepool Headland, taking in the Doctor’s Garden, the Bowling Green and other famous mig hotspots here. I managed to eek out a few Goldcrests, whilst offshore 4 Great Skuas and an Arctic Skua headed north, with both Red-throated Diver and 3 Common Scoters on the sea for good measure. I was duly dropped off in Durham, heading southwards towards Norwich. It was great to see all three of the lads and to be shown some of the best sites in the Teeside and Durham region; I will look forward to birding the area with them again.
At the beginning of last week (22nd Oct) I spent the day in London for only the third time ever, taking in a few of the famous landmarks that I was yet to have seen. Hampstead Heath was no such landmark, but was paid a personally necessary visit. I had not bothered to catch up with Ring-necked Parakeet before this point, and was hoping I’d see a good few on the heath without much of a problem. I was successful, managing 10 Ring-necked Parakeets within half an hour. One flew low overhead more or less the moment that we entered the heath, but views were fleeting. I hoped to find a sizeable group feeding in the trees, and it didn’t take me long to trace a group of 9 (5 males) by the lake after hearing their pretty squawks reverbertating across the heath from far off. I spent a good 15 minutes admiring them as they hung lazily from twigs and branches and feeding, conversing with each other loudly from time to time.I left them to it after a short while, heading off to take in St Paul’s and the Tower of London amongst other landmarks. A worthwhile little stop.
As a result of actually making the effort to get myself to the right places for the first time, I had finally managed to catch up with two bogey species of mine. These two occasions were only part of my wider birding experiences in Norfolk during my October holiday,where things became a little bit tasty… For more on that, stay tuned.
Thanks for reading,