Sunday, June 17, 2007

Anser Birding Upper Teesdale and Northumberland 13-17 June 2007 trip report

Anser Birding Upper Teesdale and Northumberland trip report all images M.J.McGill

13 June 2007 I collected four of the group at four different but close locations in Gloucestershire and then our 5th and 6th in North Birmingham en-route. A couple of hours and comfort stops later we were looking toward the hills where Upper Teesdale beckoned. The weather was worsening from hot and sunny to cold, wet and wind, on arriving at Langdon Beck we stopped at a bridge to watch Common Sandpiper feeding among the boulders. It was now too cold for shorts so we donned our waterproofs and headed for a nearby farm to search for some of our target birds. This site is visited by Anser to appreciate the breeding waders of the area and we did just that! Lapwing chicks were found next to the path and the pairs of Redshank, Oystercatcher, Curlew and Golden Plover were all vocal in defense of their young. The luxuriant meadows were stunning and are full of Orchids and other flowers as the wader chicks were obviously hiding in this impressive sward we kept moving. Curlew perched on the walls, Golden Plover atop the boulders and Snipe were drumming overhead. A single Black Grouse flew over the top of the hill. A Wheatear was seen along a wall and a pair of Redshank had chicks, one of which ran along it until out of view. On reaching the farm a female Ring Ouzel gave an alarm call and fly-pasts and we soon realised that she had a nest. It was located in the wall of the barn so we moved off to a much less sheltered spot to scan the crag and slopes. Another female Ring Ouzel fed along with a few Wheatear but the weather was too poor for much else to be showing. We stopped at the Langdon Beck hotel to take advantage of coffee and a log fire to dry off. To finish up we parked the car and viewed from a safe distance a very rainy Black Grouse lek to find a lone male waiting for some attention. He also eventually gave up with the heavy rain so we left the area passing many Lapwing with chicks along the roadside.

Black Grouse in atrocious weather

14 June 2007 We headed straight to Seahouses to see about boats to the Farne Islands and arrived to be told of a fifty-fifty chance of going and to check back at 1200pm. We hang around the harbour and town buying provisions and birding until I checked the boat again and decided to book on the 1000 boat for an all day. A good move as we eventually (after the tide floated the stranded boats) got to the islands and landed on Staple and Inner Farne plus a full tour of the archipeligo. We got back at 4.30pm for tea and cakes in the cafe. The pictures show what birds we saw but as ever these islands provide one of the best birding experiences in Europe.

Guillemot and Razorbill on Staple Island

Puffin on Staple Island, Farnes

Guillemots on Staple Island

Sandwich Terns on Inner Farne Arctic Tern on Inner Farne Arctic Tern and chick in the courtyard, Inner Farne Puffins on Staple Island

We ended the day with a quick visit to Budle Bay at high tide where more Eider with ducklings and at least 9 Red-breasted Merganser were found.

15 June 2007 The weather was a windy but it was dry with sunny spells so I thought it best to cross the causeway to Holy Island (Lindisfarne) and to make sure we allowed time to get back before 1300. A quick stroll through the Snook and a scan of the beach offered 300 Starlings and Meadow Pipit, Skylark and Stonechat. Orchids were in abundance as well as Viper's Bugloss. We also realised that the sea was rather interesting so a relocation in the dunes, out of the wind and we set up for a seawatch. In less than 1.5 hours we had logged 1 Black-throated Diver, 1 Arctic Skua, 350 Gannet, 23 Sandwich Tern, 1 Little Tern, 25 Manx Shearwater, 40 Fulmar, 100's of auks and Kittiwake, 8 Common Scoter all passing south. A lunch/coffee stop and then check of the channel between the village and mainland added 3 more Little Terns, 12 Teal and dozens of Grey Seals. We returned across the causeway and then the rain began to fall again. A 40 minute drive to Amble to find the boat was not running to Coquet Island so we tried to scope the Roseate Terns from the coast car park. Torrential rain and an onshore gale did not help, we abandoned this idea after having lunch in the bus. The only option was to try Hauxley NR where a comfortable, heated hide was a saving grace. On arriving an Otter greeted us below the hide an showed for 20 minutes as it ate Eels and other fish.

Otter at Hauxley NR

I set myself up to scan the terns that were passing through or stopping to wash/drink en-route to, presumably, Coquet Island. They were all moving in the same direction and only one bird was carrying fish so I am unsure of what was happening. I logged over 500 Arctic, Common and Sandwich Terns and checked every one for Roseate. A dark-phase Arctic Skua was seen chasing them over the trees. Everyone else continued watching the other wetland birds and the Otter. A displaying Ringed Plover was nice to see. We enjoyed the birding and shelter but eventually headed back after a quick check of East Chevington (Water Rail calling, Reed Warbler, Wigeon and GBB Gull added) to end the day.

16 June 2007 We woke to find the whole coast shrouded in sea-mist, it was not even possible to see the other side of the field at the back of the hotel. This was officially now the worst set of weather ever experienced on an Anser trip. After breakfast we drove very slowly along the local lanes with the windows down listening. We saw a few Teal on a roadside pool but soon found singing Yellowhammer doing their best to brighten up the day and encourage the sun out. At Seahouses the boats were not running, Coquet Island was off so a walk around Beadnell Bay was on the cards. The damp mist had not cleared and any hope of migrants was dashed when only the local breeding birds were seen. We could hear the tern colony and for a few minutes at a time it cleared to show Little Terns nesting among the hundreds of Arctics/Commons and when bathing in the Long Nanny a few Sandwich Terns. We returned to the car park where it was warming up and after a coffee got the news I was hoping for. After searching in the mist earlier and failing the male Red-backed Shrike was relocated and showed excellently as it chased Bees and other insects. It was mobbed by four species at one time, Sedge Warbler, Linnet, Meadow Pipit and Reed Bunting. Is must be ingrained for them to mob this species as they are unlikely to ever have had breeding pairs in their area during their lifetimes. Finally some luck.

Male Red-backed Shrike at Beadnell Bay

The afternoon was spent further south around the excellent Druridge Bay where at the pools a dark phase Arctic Skua was sat on the marsh along with Whooper Swan and 1st summer Mediterranean Gull. A Willow Warbler sang in the willow scrub. After birding at Cresswell Pond we returned to these pools for a reported Wood Sandpiper and Garganey but is appears they were flushed by a Barn Owl! Only a Common Sandpiper could be seen. Cresswell had 3 1st-summer Little Gulls among the terns and gulls. Shelduck had ducklings here and a few Ringed Plover were present. On the sea we found another tern chasing Arctic Skua, 200+ Common Scoter, 1 Manx Shearwater and many seabirds. A short stop on the way home gave us an active adult Spoonbill at Longhirst Flash.

17 June 2007 We got up early had breakfast and had a couple of stops before stopping off at Leighton Moss RSPB. Our first stop was at Whittle Dene Reservoirs for Hobby and Osprey but both had departed. We did have lots of Yellow Wagtail including one pair feeding young. A Grey Partridge on the road before we got there was a bonus. We arrived at Leighton and parked at the visitor centre and then joined hundreds of other birders to watch the White-tailed Plover that had been present for a week. The views were distant but it was an impressive bird nonetheless, especially in flight. We also saw Marsh Harrier quartering the reedbeds here. After and hour or so we loaded up and arrived back in Glos for 1800.

Martin J McGill


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