Trip reports

Saltholme & Hartlepool - 27/10/12

Saltholme & Hartlepool - 27/10/12
Knot - Holly Page

Saturday, 27 October 2012

We left Birch services at 7.30 to start the journey up to the north east. It was when we got near to Thirsk that we started to get worried - that was when the snow started!

Luckily for us it was pretty localised and we soon came out the other side into dry but very cloudy weather. Unfortunately it didn't stay dry for long!

We arrived at Saltholme before it opened so we went a little further up the road to a viewing screen which looks out over Greatham Creek. This area is usually good for waders and common seals regularly haul themselves out here at low tide. First thing, however, there were no seals and very few birds - just a group of greater black backed gulls, lapwings and a solitary oystercatcher. It then started to hail - heavily. We stayed under the shelter for a while but, as it didn't seem to show any sign of letting up we decided to make a break for it back to the cars. Of course it stopped as we got there!!

Onto the RSPB reserve itself and the sun decided to show its face. A good number of species were seen including both redwing & fieldfare, barnacle, greylag & Canada geese, black-tailed godwit, golden plover, snipe, little grebe and tree sparrow. Winter ducks were also evident with pochard, wigeon, teal, pintail, shoveler & goldeneye all present. When we left the first hide, I did my usual count to make sure no-one had been left behind and found we were now 13 not the 12 we started with! A lady had attached herself to our group and walked round the rest of the reserve with us. It was only when we got back to the visitor centre for lunch that we realised she thought she was supposed to be with us! It turns out she had gone into the first hide with the group she came with but then got herself attached to the wrong group as we left!

After lunch we headed north to Seaton Carew where you can view Hartlepool Bay. We had been told by a local at Saltholme that it was a good place to see waders at high tide. He wasn't wrong! We had good, close-up views of ringed plover, oystercatcher, turnstone & knot. There was also a Mediterranean gull standing on top of an outflow pipe with a black-headed gull which provided a good tutorial on the differences between these two similar species.

We then moved on to Hartlepool headland. First up was a bit of sea watching which was productive. The sea was very rough with big waves breaking over the sea wall. There was a flock of common scoter fairly close in (all females for some reason!) and several rafts of eider. One of the group was lucky enough to see a little auk. We then walked round the headland to the beach where we had excellent views of purple sandpiper, rock pipit & brambling.

8 of us decided to finish the day off at Greenabella Marsh which is just up the road from Saltholme. It was just starting to go dark and still dry so the perfect conditions for our target birds - we weren't disappointed. We had brilliant prolonged views of 2 short-eared owls quartering the march and swooping down for prey. There is a barn owl box on the marsh and the pair which nested there fledged 3 young this year. The adults seem to have moved off but the 3 youngsters were still there alternating between sitting on the little "porch" of their box and a bush not too far away. A captivating end to a wonderful day with 66 species seen.