Friday, 9 January 2015

Gulls before the Storm

8th Jan.  It’s been a good start to a new year and yesterday saw Sam and me down at North Shields, literally bright and not too early.  We managed to pick up Iceland Gull very quickly as we approached the Fish Quay and chatted to another birder from south of the Tyne.  I suggested we walk underneath the shed roofs and into the harbour.  Glaucous Gull was found on the roof of the sheds.  The light gradually improved and we had some decent sightings as one or two other birders arrived.  Eiders swam in the harbour.  It had been good to get both gulls on the year list and both had been lifers for Sam.  Neither of us are what you would call ‘gull’ men but watching them at the Fish Quay, in my opinion certainly beats keeping watch over rubbish tips, although I guess it depends upon taste.

Iceland Gull

 As we walked towards Tynemouth we watched Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Purple Sandpiper, Dunlin and Redshank.  Sam had his first mammal of the year in Brown Rat.  We picked up Fulmar, Kestrel, Rock Pipit, Pied Wagtail and a pair of Grey Wagtail at the foot of the cliff underneath the priory before we decided to take a walk along the pier.  I couldn’t remember any previous walks along the pier if I’m honest.  Having checked this out I’m told I was taken along to the lighthouse in a carry-cot when I was three weeks old!  I don’t remember this.  Neither do I remember any previous walks along there, but surely as a ‘true Geordie’ I must have been along.  It was quite a bracing walk, especially on the return with the wind in our faces.  The views are excellent and I can only remember taking them in from boats before.  Listening to the wind as I type I can only say I’m grateful not to be along there now!

 Our next stop was Seaton Sluice where a look from the headland provided very little and we were just about to leave for our walk up to Holywell when I got my eye on a lone Little Auk.  Another lifer for Sam.

We only walked part of the dene, missing the Kingfisher which we were assured had just been seen.  A few woodland birds were picked up before we climbed out onto the open fields.  The sun was almost setting and I thought it was a good night for owl sightings, but we didn’t see any.  A flock of Yellowhammers and a Reed Bunting was about as exciting as it got out there.  The cutting wind was by now beginning to pick up a little.  Tree Sparrows were amongst birds seen at the feeding station near Holywell Pond.

The pond itself provided sightings of Cormorant, Mute Swan, Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck and Goldeneye.  Oh and gulls of course.  Curlews had called and lifted as we approached and we heard both Pheasant and Water Rail.  I had just said, ‘I never seen the Water Rail at Holywell Pond’.  Well, I still haven’t seen it, but at least I’ve heard it now.  Apart from a couple of passing dog walkers we had had the place to ourselves which is often the case and why I like the place so much.

I was beginning to feel rather chilled as we left for home so was pleased we had a lift awaiting us.  I’d added nine new species to the year list on what was a great day, gulls and all, but especially the walk along the pier and the Little Auk.

Now did you know that 3,000,000 tonnes of stone ( magnesian limestone from Trow Quarry was used for the lower course, the facing and the Lighthouses) was used in the construction of North and South Piers.  I’m not sure if that was the original amount of stone used and more was required when North Pier was reconstructed.


  1. Nice pictures of the Pier and 'that' Gull Brian, good day out as usual and another good Blog (Again as usual!)

  2. We always have a good day Sam, even when it's 'just gulls!' Cheers. Brian.