20th Sept. It was a dismal start to the day as Sam and I met Tom at Tynemouth for what was a reunion of the all weather birders. Drizzle and mist and not much sign of birdlife to begin with, although Tom had seen the Red-breasted Flycatcher early morning. We talked of sightings found in warmer climes as we had all been on birding trips on the continent since all three of us had met up. Conditions seemed good for the possibility of finding some migrant birds today. We heard Blackcap as we arrived.
As the drizzle drizzled we stood around patiently awaiting a fleeting glimpse of the Red-breasted Flycatcher. Our wait was in vain and in fact little stirred amongst the trees and bushes. Never really reaching a point of what you would call heavy rain, the drizzle did eventually drizzle away to almost nothing and it did brighten slightly. At this point our patience began to be rewarded with some decent sightings including an early Brambling which give us two or three good sightings. I reckoned this was an early and very new arrival and having checked dates in Birds in Northumbria, I note that in 2010 the first record was 20th September, 2011 was 13th September and 2012 was 21st September. All is relative of course, as these dates simply record those records made known. My thought is that most folk don’t send in records and of course many birds will be missed anyway. Anyhow, I’m happy that our record is an early one of one of my favourite ‘wintering’ birds. I’ll be surprised if there have been many, if any Bramblings seen in Northumberland this autumn before this one!
Other significant sightings amongst the commoner woodland species were two Yellow-browed Warblers, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff, with the latter bird calling on a number of occasions. Goldcrest and a large party of Long-tailed Tits were amongst other birds seen before we moved from the area of the Priory Car-park.
We walked down to the pier and enjoyed a short sea watch. Both Purple Sandpiper and Turnstone were seen on the rocks below us. A small flock of Brent Geese were seen flying south and at least three Great Skuas, Arctic Skua and Red-breasted Merganser were also seen. A Kestrel flew below the priory. After a short return to look again for the Red-breasted Flycatcher we left for the warmth of the fish and chip restraunt at Seaton Sluice where a good lunch was enjoyed. The drizzle was no longer.
Another quick sea-watch, this time from Seaton Sluice brought us four Velvet Scoters together quite close in on the sea and Common Scoter. The Velvet Scoters showed really well and along with the Brambling were probably my birds of the day. Two Manx Shearwaters flew north and were again seen very well quite close into land. Arctic Terns were seen here and in other areas along the coast. Red-throated Diver showed well and there was good numbers of Guillemot and Eider on the sea.
We walked to St Mary’s Island checking out the mounds on the way. These were silent. Numbers of Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Linnet and Goldfinch were seen along the walk as was a lone Lapwing. Golden Plovers were on the rocks north of the island. Sam had a decent sighting of a female Wheatear which I only caught as a flashing flypast out the corner of my eye.
The mounds, willows and wetland proved to be almost devoid of birds, although Tom heard a Yellow-browed Warbler at the back of the wetland and Sam and I watched as a small flock of Wigeon flew onto the pool. In comparison Priors Park area at Tynemouth was buzzing! We headed towards the crematorium grounds passing a lone Sanderling, Oystercatchers and Curlews along the way. Arctic Skuas had been seen over the sea again. Our second Kestrel of the day hovered over the fields as at last the sun began to break through. The crematorium grounds were silent.