26th Mar. Today saw Sam and I down at North Shields Fish Quay for a close encounter with Goliath alias the Glaucous Gull. OK, I can hear you all saying, ‘I’ve been there and done that’, but readers will know we always take a laid- back approach to bird watching and wait until everyone has moved along. As it happens we weren’t the only birders to have seen this bird for the first time today as we were joined by another interested birdman from Gateshead.
We had had other business before going to North Shields so I didn’t have my camera gear, but Sam had some of his and was able to get some good images, a few that I have included here, So, all images are courtesy of Samuel Hood.
We found the Glaucous Gull not at all phased by the approach of people, cars and machinery, but apparently nervous of approaches from other gulls, so keeping itself very much to itself in that respect. It certainly wasn’t interested in handouts of fish and chip scraps thrown out by passers-by, but simply stood back and watched whilst other gulls got into a frenzy of feeding. The Glaucous Gull seemed to watch them with some distain, perhaps feeling it ought to rise above such unseemly street behaviour. Perhaps I’m allowing anthropomorphism to creep in just a little.
Sam and I spent some time with Goliath and agreed it was probably the best sighting of a Glaucous Gull we have ever had. Whilst we were there it flew from the roof of the Fish Quay sheds to the wall of the quay carparking area, flew a short way along the river and back and across to South Shields, but it did seem to prefer the company on the north side of the river. I’m sure it could tell us a few interesting stories of what it has seen already in its relatively short life, and even I can be fascinated by the thoughts of where this bird has been and grant you that some gulls can be very interesting. Kittiwakes are of course another example and I heard my first Kittiwake calls of the year today and watched as numbers of them flew along the Tyne. There was also a sizeable flock of Eider Duck on the river.
I’ve always liked North Shields and its community, a place of character and characters and in the main a friendly atmosphere. Massive changes over recent years of course, but the character remains.
27th Mar. We decided to visit Druridge today and our first stop was Widdrington Pool which seems to me to be attracting more and more birds. Throughout our few hours in the area the scent of new growth was in the air, giving a real feeling that spring had arrived despite the grey cloud and cold. The most distinctive fragrance was that from the Gorse, much of it in flower now and along with Hawthorn blossom there was a touch of bright colour to be found. I do think Gorse is a far better term than furze, which always suggests to me an old fellow’s stubble. I’ve noted that there is some rather expensive Gorse fragrance in a bottle for men and women available. It might be just what some of you birders out there want! I’ve no wish to smell like a coconut with a touch of citrus, so I’m keeping clear of it. I’ll save money and simply have a shower!
We had some decent sightings at Widdrington, our best of the day in fact, including 2,000+ Pink Footed Geese in the fields, 12+ Whooper Swans, Great Crested Grebe, 3 Scaup, Kestrel and Common Buzzards flying low along the ridge of the hill opposite. With many of the waterfowl ready to return to breeding areas it gave the feel of change which was added to by the calling Chiffchaff.
Chatting away we missed the turn off for Druridge Country Park and so ended up at Hauxley by accident. We didn’t stay long, but it was good to see the numbers of Tree Sparrows. For some reason or other the birds remaining in mind are Lesser Black backed Gull and Long tailed Tit. The car-park was almost full so something is being done correctly on the reserve, perhaps it’s the tea and cakes.
From Druridge Country Park we looked over East Chevington North Pool. Along with a lone dark bellied Brent Goose, a lone Sandwich Tern spotted only by Sam and more Great Crested Grebes we found a few other species of wildfowl and heard Water Rail and Little Grebe. A quick look out over the sea brought us sightings of a couple of Red Throated Divers.
Having taken a break for a bite to eat at the Drift café, yes we were able to get in on this occasion, we passed a Grey Partridge on the wall near Cresswell Pond as we made for Druridge Pools which once again we found very quiet, with no waders to be seen except an odd Curlew. There was plenty of pairs of Shoveler too, engaged in circular feeding. Sadly, we may have missed the Bewick Swan in a field of Mute Swans, the former being reported the following day.