14th July. The Fog on the Tyne was at least partly mine, as I crossed the mist to the south bank. It was quite early, so my excuse for not ticking Kittiwakes as I usually do was that I was still half asleep. I was soon in the metropolis of Chester-le-Street where my mission was to find AK, of Foghorn Birding Adventures fame, and AR in Tesco’s car park. With a little assistance this mission was soon accomplished and we were off on a magical mystery tour of Durham. The other guys seemed to know where they were going, but I didn’t! The mist by this time had cleared. I had set AK the task of finding me five year ticks today.
First stop was Greatham Creek. The first bird seen of any significance was an overhead calling Yellow Wagtail, and there were a number of Common Seals around. There were Common Terns a plenty and it wasn’t too long before we caught sight of a single Ruff which delivered my first year tick. That brought the response of ‘oh, that’s a year tick is it’ from AK. Not sure what he meant by his remark! It was good to see the numbers of Avocet still about and in the same vicinity there were Redshanks and Dunlin. A juvenile Dunlin was thought to be of the northern race. I think AK was intent on having a look at this in flight but AR and I managed to drag him away without too much fuss. A Common Sandpiper was briefly seen in flight. As well as white species butterflies, there were a number of Meadow Brown, and I got my eye on one Small Heath Butterfly.
Next short stop was Saltholme Pools where I have to report that Coot numbers are doing very well. I thought at on point that I may have seen at least half the world population. We did get good sightings of four more Ruff and a Sanderling. Oystercatcher, Curlew, Lapwing, and Dunlin were amongst other waders seen here, along with both Greylag and Canada Geese. There were at least three Grey Herons sharing the pond with the Coots. There were more Common Terns. By now we were all getting peckish so we made for Dormans Pool and lunch. Over lunch we heard and momentarily glimpsed Reed Warbler. Whitethroat was also about. It was shortly after having had lunch that AK received one of his ‘local bird reports’. This was some rarity on Orkney. We did consider heading for Aberdeen and catching the ferry to the islands, but having just a couple of sandwiches, half a bottle of water and £7.09 between the three of us we decided not to bother. Who needs rarities anyway? This little episode did bring an hour or so of jokes about Northlink ferries, which I’m sure no one in their right mind would want me to repeat and you had to be there to see the funny side.
We were soon off again and this time didn’t stop until we were at Crimdon Dene. I began to have flash backs of a childhood visit here. I had been very hot during the day, but that was soon to change in the sea mist and wind. After an interesting chat with the warden we were off to look for the Little Terns. We soon found them and lots of them too. This was my second year tick which brought another retort of ‘oh that’s a year tick is it’ from AK! I can tell you now to avoid any suspense that there was not to be a third year tick for me. This young man once again promised so much, but delivered so little! :-) The Little Tern was my bird of the day and we watched them at some length, and at times there was Little Tern, Common Tern, Arctic Tern and Sandwich Tern on the beach in front of us. The Arctic Tern’s tail streamers showing really well. The usual gulls were about along with Ringed Plover and Sanderling over the sea were Gannets, Guillemots and a lone Manx Shearwater. Skylarks were singing over the dunes. There was some interesting plant life here, but the other guys didn’t seem too interested in them so after a while we headed off to Castle Lake.
Now I hadn’t been to Castle Lake since the hide had been built. I can understand why DBC are proud of it. We had a several waders here including Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Dunlin, Green Sandpiper, Redshank, Greenshank and Curlew. We didn’t find the Wood Sandpiper and the Hobby didn’t put in an appearance either. A Sparrowhawk did fly through and we had seen Kestrel earlier in the day. Having took a while to focus in o a distant Stock Dove, one then flew right overhead! Just before we moved onto the A1 flashes three young boys had the cheek to walk down to the shore of the lake so we give out a yell and we were met by apologetic replies. A few minutes later there was a tap on the door. Could this be the boys seven foot, twenty stone fathers come to have a word, or worse, I thought. I opened the door ready to put my spectacles on and with the broom in one hand. The boys had come up to apologise. There is obviously good breeding and respect in the area! The A1 flashes brought only Grey Heron, Curlew and Lapwing and by now the skies were turning a dark shade of grey. There was good numbers of Skylark about, but no Corn Buntings were found. A Small Tortiseshell Butterfly was seen. As we headed back to Chester-le Street the rains came down. As I left the Tesco car park I noticed AK and AR cleaning out the part of the car I had been sitting in. Were they trying to tell me something I wondered!
I was quickly on the bus back to north of the Tyne and reflecting what had been another great day in Durham with a list of bird species seen totaling 64. Thank you AK, and thank you AR. I will return! :-)
Having denied any part in an offence, I referred the police enquiries concerning three men, one with a brush in his right hand, verbally abusing schoolboys, on to AK.