This was my forth year in a row that I’ve taken part in this annual event and by far the hardest year yet for me trying to clock the birds up on home soil.
Our team started off by listening to the birds in Westoe cemetery waking up around the area where we provide food for them, straining our eyes to see them in the early morning light.
Then it was a pit stop at the outer fence area of South Marine park to clock Mute’s, Pochards and Tufties one of the only sites in our boro where all 3 can be encountered together.
The freezing cold cliffs of Whitburn were visited next as planned because of the tide, all the usual waders in the bag along with the only sighing of the day for us of Golden plovers which we managed to see just as we arrived as they took off heading north. Over 60 Wigeon were close in to shore and a few on the rocks here. A single Purple sandpiper was picked out which saved us a journey back along to Shields pier. Also the only Rock pipits for us seen here. We scoped the sea from here which produced Great crested grebe, Common Scoter, Eider and Red throated diver, the cold wind got the better of us and we retreated to the comfort of my mobile skip..(That’s right some things never change!).
Med. Gull at the north Grotto car park and Little Owl in Marsden old quarry (3 Fieldfares also) followed….two birds I was worried about dipping on!
Then a tea break at the Grotto car park and a bit more sea watching resulted in Guillemot, Fulmar and a small grebe sp. That was too far out flying north for any of us to poss. Id.
A quick walk around the south end of the Leas followed which produced nowt! This was when we knew after not seeing one or two expected waders at Whitburn and certain species here it was going to be a hard slog and lower than usual count for the bird race.
Academy pools next and Reed bunting, Coot, Grey partridge(8-10) and over 30 Fieldfares(heading west) were added to the list.
Boldon flats- Tree sparrows on the feeders, Yellowhammers, Pheasant and Stock doves(another species I was worried about).Also about 18 Pinkies went over.
Colliery woods- Cotswolds housing est. feeders –Willow tit,Bullfinch and Coal tit. Plantation area- A flock of over 100 finches…Gold and Polls which never settled for us to pick the bones out of! But 2 Siskins dropped to allow good views. Another covey of Partridge (9) east of here.
Environmental centre- Pants!
Jarrow Cemetery- Spotted woody and our first Long tailed tits! Also a Goldcrest amongst the tit flock on the northern edge of here.
Slake road Don area- Dabchick and Teal clocked up on the Don and Shelduck on the Tyne . A Fox curled up asleep in the Waterboards reserve on the north side(same place as last year when we seen it) along with a less than average count of Herons here. But Tufties lined the north side of the Tyne here some 100+ birds along with a couple of thousand BH and Common gulls.
Back to the Flats- Greylags had returned on this visit about 50 birds.
And last visit of the day was to Trow/mound area. This was to try and find Skylark or Meadow pipit which was fruitless and we found out it was the same for the other two teams along with Woodcock throughout the day.
So this years bird race was a 3 team event and many a species that we would expect to encounter we didn’t, some lads dipped on Little owl and Rock pipits whilst we dipped on Sparrowhawk and Song thrush to name a couple.
Some canny birds recorded were- Waxwings(3) in Westoe cem.(Dougie and Jasons team) with the help of Jan my better half who is kipping in a tent tonight!, Treecreeper ( Dougie and Jasons team.) in Jarrow cemetery.
Peregrine at Boldon flats(Mc brothers+ Dougies) , Merlin at Whitburn(Mc brothers).
Cracking day as always.
Low count species wise this year- 83 in total
75 Was the winning total on our team. As apposed to the total of 87 which has won the title (bar last year) since 2005.