29th Dec. I arrived at North Shields Fish Quay on a frosty and crisp morning only to find that it didn’t feel as cold as I thought it would. Perhaps lack of wind, a bright blinding sun shining from a blue sky and my numerous layers of clothing all had some impact upon me feeling not too cold! I met up with Tom and it wasn’t long before we were watching the Iceland Gull. Unfortunately its appearance in the harbour part of the quay was limited to one or two fly pasts and the rest of the time it spent in amongst the flocks of assorted gulls on the riverside. Tempted no doubt, by the fish remains that were being dumped into the river. Cormorants and Eider Ducks were nearby. In any event, it was a nice sighting to begin the day.
Iceland Gull (this one courtesy of Tom Middleton)
We walked to the mouth of the Tyne passing little on the way until we reached the Black Middens. The tide was fairly high. At this point we counted Purple Sandpipers well into double figures, around thirty Ringed Plovers along with the Oystercatchers, Turnstones, Dunlin and Redshank. It’s been a while since I completed this walk which offers such good views up the river.
Not much birdlife was found at Priors Park apart from the likes of tits, Chaffinches, Mistle Thrushes and Sparrowhawk which flew into the top of the trees and took some finding again. As Tom said maybe its presence accounted for the lack of other bird life. Our next stop was Seaton Sluice for some lunch. A cup of tea warmed me nicely before our walk through the dene to Holywell Pond.
It was surprisingly free of folk in the dene for such a pleasant day. Calling Redshank were numerous at the start of the walk and we did find numbers of woodland birds including a party of at least five Bullfinches and four Goldcrests. Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard, and at least three Nuthatches and two Grey Wagtail were seen. Tit parties were at the feeders along with Dunnocks and Robins.
By the time we reached Holywell Pond the temperature was just beginning to drop. The pond area was notable by what was not there rather than what we saw. We found no Wigeon, Teal or Goldeneye at all and there was no sign of any geese in the area, not even an odd Canada Goose, although I admit we didn’t do a complete search of the fields. Tree Sparrows were seen at the feeding station, two Kestrels were in the area and Mute Swan, Grey Heron, Mallard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and a single Little Grebe were seen at the pond.
Not that many birds at the pond so I began to take an interest in the Rat.
After we had watched a rather shy Brown Rat and a limping Mallard drake outside of the members hide, and having received a txt from Sam informing me of a nice sighting in Killingworth we made for home as the air began to bite. The Iceland Gull had been the only one sighted by me this year. It had been good to be out in the fresh air and shake off the lethargy of Christmas. On the way home Tom got his eye on five geese (species) in a field, the only ones seen all day!