Trip reports

Saltholme & Hartlepool - 24.10.15

Saltholme & Hartlepool - 24.10.15
Arctic tern - Holly Page

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Our October trip saw 7 members heading for Teesside in the hope of some good autumn birding.

We first headed for Greatham Creek, part of the Teesside National Nature Reserve. The tide was well out so there were few birds around. We did however see redshank, curlew, lapwing and both common and grey seals.

Our next stop was RSPB Saltholme. The main lake, viewed from the visitor centre, held little grebe and tufted duck while the feeders had tree sparrows, greenfinches and a few starlings. We walked down to the main Saltholme hide, scanning through the flock of geese on the neighbouring fields. The only thing we picked out which was out of the ordinary were a couple of domestic white geese, trying (and failing!) to blend in with the Canada & greylag geese.

From the hide itself we saw lapwing, golden plover, dunlin and a single black-tailed godwit. A good number of duck species were present - pintail, teal, shoveler and gadwall. A little egret was feeding in a nearby channel and a couple of cormorants were drying their wings on the posts in the water.

Onto the next hide, overlooking Paddy's Pool, and a raptor was spotted in a post. The strong wind, distance and the fact that the bird was facing away from us didn't make the ID easy at all but in the end we settled for merlin. A flock of barnacle geese were seen feeding on the far side of the pool alongside a large group of great black backed gulls.

After a pit stop in the café to warm up with some hot chocolate we went back to the cars to head further up the coast. As the tide was now in we stopped at a good spot for roosting waders just north of Seaton Carew. The oystercatcher, ringed plover, redshank, turnstone and knot were all expected, the Arctic tern wasn't! This bird should surely have been somewhere south of the equator by this time but it was sat on a rocky shoreline near Hartlepool!!! The news had clearly been spread amongst the local birders as several arrived to get a look at the bird while we were there - something of a local twitch! The bird certainly looked healthy enough as eventually we were able to watch it diving into the sea catching fish, it's internal calendar must just have been slightly off! We finished off at this location with a nice winter plumaged Mediterranean gull.

Our final stop of the day was at Hartlepool Headland. This is a well-known migrant hotspot but today, as the winds were in the wrong direction, there wasn't too much around. A brief sea-watch produced a lovely close-in red-throated diver and further out was a group of eider and several guillemots. A couple of purple sandpiper were roosting with a group of turnstones on the breakwater and a couple of rock pipits were also seen to finish off the day.