News

Tuesday, 3 May 2022

Durham RSPB Local Group Events programme 2021-22

Field Meetings
This spring we have returned to a more normal pattern for our field meetings. However, Covid has not gone away and we will continue to exercise reasonable precautions.

Our planned programme of excursions for the Spring and Summer includes a mixture of full-day outings and four local evening trips. All trips start from the Stockton Road entrance to the Durham University Science Site and will be by car, with no advance booking needed. However, if you wish to meet the group at some other rendezvous, please let David.Sowerbutts@dunelm.org.uk know beforehand so that we do not miss you! For evening outings parking in the metered spaces near the University Science Site is free at that time of day. For full day trips cars not needed for the journey will be re-located where parking is free for the day.

Thursday 5 May
Field meeting (Evening)
Shincliffe and Houghall
Start: 6.30 pm
This area on the edge of Durham City includes riverside, farmland and mature woodland. Part of it is regularly covered in a Breeding Bird Survey, which has produced up to 67 species in a single year. In early May some species will be establishing territory, while others will have started incubation and a few may already have young. Part of the outing will be along the bank of the River Wear. We will meet at the Stockton Road entrance to the Durham University Science Site at 6.30 p.m. and the outing should last until about 9.30 p.m.

Wednesday 18 May
Field meeting (Evening)
Bishop Middleham
Start: 6.30 pm
Bishop Middleham is an area of farmland, with subsidence pools and lakes, in recent years found to be of rich ornithological interest. It is now one of the county's strongholds for corn bunting and a good area for other key farmland species such as yellowhammer, tree sparrow, skylark, yellow wagtail and little owl. At this time of year wader passage is still in progress and there is a possibility of birds such as ruff, as well as breeding redshank, curlew and lapwing and perhaps little ringed plover. Scarce species which have occurred here include white stork and spoonbill, while raptors are sometimes seen. A hide overlooking Castle Lake provides a good vantage point for evening viewing. The Bishop's Fen site, being developed by the Brightwater Project and Durham Wildlife Trust, is on the opposite bank of the River Skerne. Travel will be in members' cars, and the excursion will start at 6.30 p.m. from the Stockton Road entrance to the Durham University Science Site.

Saturday 21 May
Field meeting (Full day)
Leighton Moss
Start: 9.00 am
Leighton Moss in Springtime is always an area which promises much, and rarely fails to deliver observations of interest. It has the largest reedbed in north-west England, with several specialist birds. The trio of marsh harrier, bearded tit and bittern have been making progress, with perhaps six bitterns present, but still elusive, this spring. The reedbeds also hold good numbers of reed and sedge warbler as well as a wide range of waterfowl. Scrub and woodland provide cover and breeding habitat for a wealth of songbirds, while the saltmarsh at the western end of the reserve attracts passage and breeding waders, a highlight of recent years being colonisation by a population of avocets. Possible stops en route to and from the Leighton Moss area should increase the variety of birds seen still further. We will meet at the Stockton Road entrance to Durham University Science Site at 9.00 a.m., travel being in members' cars, and should be back in Durham about 8.00 p.m. RSPB members are reminded to bring their membership cards to gain free admittance to the reserve.

Tuesday 31 May
Field meeting (Evening)
Frosterley
Start: 6.30 pm
Our visit to the Frosterley area will take in a variety of habitats on a circular walk from the village. There should be common sandpiper, sand martin and grey wagtail on the river, with the possibility of treecreeper, redstart and flycatchers in the riverside trees. A number of warblers should be in song in the mixed scrub vegetation, while on the nearby hillside breeding waders may include lapwing, redshank, oystercatcher and curlew. The area is also suitable for cuckoo. Members who wish to stay on after the visit should (weather permitting) be able to obtain good views of Daubenton's bats. This trip will start at 6.30 p.m. from the Stockton Road entrance to Durham University Science Site, travel being in members' cars.

Saturday 11 June
Field meeting (Full day)
Northumberland coast
Start: 9.00 am
The exact itinerary for this outing is still to be decided, but the plan is to include sites in the mid-Northumberland area covering reedbed, lakes, rocky coast and sandy shores. We can expect to see a good range of waterfowl, waders, terns and probably guillemot, razorbill, fulmar, shag and "flyby" gannets. The coastal area includes scrub habitat which is likely to produce warbler species, with skylark and meadow pipit nearby. We will meet at the Stockton Road entrance to Durham University Science Site at 9.00 a.m., travel being in members' cars, and should be back in Durham about 8.00 p.m.

Friday 1 July
Field meeting (Evening)
Nightjar evening
Start: 8.00 pm
Our Nightjar evening is planned to follow the pattern which has become established over recent years. We will meet at the University Science Site at 8.00 p.m. and then travel by car to the locality chosen for the evening. This is likely to be in County Durham but may be just over the county boundary into Northumberland, depending on the information we have on where nightjars can be found this year. Many nightjar sites are also good for woodcock, some of which should still be "roding", and there is the possibility of other crepuscular species such as tawny owl. Since nightjars are not active until after sunset, return to Durham may well be after midnight. Midges can be a problem - insect repellent may help!

Saturday 6 August
Field meeting (Full day)
Teesmouth
Start: 9.00 am
This outing is likely to include a visit to the RSPB Saltholme Reserve, so remember to bring your RSPB membership card!

The autumn wader migration will be well under way. We may well see a dozen or more species ranging from saltmarsh and mudflat feeders such as grey plover, knot, bar-tailed godwit and possibly whimbrel, through more generalist species like redshank, dunlin and curlew, to those most likely to be found on brackish or freshwater pools, including little ringed plover and black-tailed godwit. Common terns now breed regularly on the North Tees marshes, while other tern species from the more northerly colonies visit Teesmouth on their way south and may be feeding offshore in Tees Bay. A number of the waterfowl species which breed in the area will be observed. In addition, there are likely to be good views of the seals which frequent Greatham Creek, and, if the day is sunny, butterflies and dragonflies should add to the interest. The outing, in members' cars, will start at 9.00 a.m. from the Stockton Road entrance to the Durham University Science Site and is planned to last until late afternoon. No advance booking is needed.


Saturday 15 October
Field meeting (Full day)
Holy Island
Start: 9.00 am
The date for the autumn outing to Holy Island is set as Saturday 15th October. Further information will be included in the June issue of the newsletter and on the website.

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