Industry and nature can live side by side!
Ruff. Not a good photo, but an excellent sighting.
18th May. The all weather birders were up and off to Saltholme before the dawn chorus had started to fade. Initially travelling through heavy rain on on the back seat of the hottest bus in town. We spotted Kittiwake as we crossed the Tyne. By the time we approaching the ‘|Boro’ all was dry and a wind was steadily picking up. Having changed buses we got off a stop early so as to approach the reserve on foot. We found that the pools that had been so productive for us last year around the same time were this year nothing more than bone dry ground. We did have many sightings of Sedge Warbler and a good view across the reserve from the road. Sparrowhawk was picked up by Tom and seen out of the corner of my eye. Kestrel gave betters views. We soon had a pair of Garganey in our sites and we heard, and possibly briefly saw a Reed Warbler as we approached the entrance of RSPB Saltholme. We soon found Black-tailed Godwit and Knot from the Teesmouth Bird Club hide. Other waders seen as the day progressed were Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover (no sign of the Little Ringed Plover), Lapwing, Redshank and Ruff. The Ruff was a beauty in almost full summer plumage. It was seen right out side of the hide! A single Barnacle Goose had been seen. Other geese today included a single Egyptian Goose showing well, Greylag and Canada Geese.
Swifts were numerous and with us all day. There were far fewer Swallows and Sand Martins. As we walked around the reserve it was quickly becoming clear to us just how quickly things were advancing and how well the reserve is settling down. Birds of the day was most definitely the Yellow Wagtails. We are still pondering over whether or not we saw the blue headed wagtail. Whitethroats, Reed Buntings, Meadow Pipits, and Goldfinches were seen and Blackcap heard. Listening for and to the birds was not easy owing to the strengthening wind but at least the sun came out.
Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveller, Wigeon, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck and of course the pair of Garganey were all seen. Someone had estimated that there were 150 Common Terns. I would have said that there were more. They were continually bringing in their fish catches. As we watched them Tom noticed a very large egg next to one of the Black-headed Gulls. We wondered if it had rolled from the nesting Canada Goose which was close by. Lesser Black Backed Gulls were about.
We stopped for a short spell in the reserve café. Our original intention was to try and get along to Seal Sands and Greatham Creek. Not easy without a car (if you value your life) although the staff had been happy enough to summon us a taxi. Instead we decided to spend more time around the reserve. Some of the rare waders had moved on and the dry conditions were not in any case good for waders. However there was plenty to fill in our day and we didn’t leave until teatime. Another look at the Yellow Wagtails and the Ruff was most welcome.
It seemed that Great Crested Grebes were everywhere and we did eventually pick up two Little Grebes.
We actually ended the day with a day list of sixty bird species. Most of which were seen on or in the vicinity of the reserve. Both of us recorded more year ticks. In my case these were Reed Warbler and Yellow Wagtail.
As we waited to return to the Middlesbourgh we spoke to a lady who had visited the reserve to seek inspiration for her poetry. She told us that because of glaucoma her sight was very poor. Despite this the birds appear to have inspired her. How could they not. It was time to leave the industrial belt of Teeside behind. A really inspiring area in itself. Sadly there seems to have been an incident earlier in the day with an explosion and at least one body being found in suspicious circumstances, and others being taken to hospital for treatment. Helicopters seemed to circle the area from our arrival until our departure.
Another great day. Both all weather birders enjoyed a bit of shut eye on the way back to Newcastle on another hot bus.:-)