Teesside 6th November

An intrepid group of 16 made the journey to sample the delights of the North bank of the mouth of the River Tees. Starting at the end of Zinc Works Road, and with the Frutarom factory in full production it felt (smelt) as if the road was living up to its name. First stop was a wander round the back of the Nuclear Power Station and on to Seaton Snook. No migrants in the trees there but very soon a flighty, noisy flock of 150+ Twite and 3 Raptors which included a Marsh Harrier, Merlin and Peregrine soon had everyone busy. The Merlin in particular put on a show as it closely chased a Meadow Pipit but failed in the end and scarpered presumably to avoid the threatening Peregrine which suddenly appeared. The Peregrine then returned to its home on the Power Station keeping a watchful eye over its territory whilst through our scopes we kept a watchful eye on it. A walk back along the river bank produced a variety of birds including Whooper Swan, Bar Tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher, Guillemot and Red Breasted Merganser and a small mixed colony of seals. Finally we moved closer to the mouth of the estuary where a Black Throated Diver, Razorbill, Brent Goose (PB), and numerous Red Throated Divers were present.

Our next stop was Cowpen Marsh and a walk up to Greatham Creek. With the tide now rising waders were being pushed closer and on to higher ground. We found reasonable numbers of Golden Plover, Dunlin, Redshank, Curlew and Lapwing. There were a few Little Egrets too and also a solitary Spoonbill and interestingly both Black and Bar Tailed Godwits feeding together which clearly showed the contrast between the species.

Final stop for the afternoon was at RSPB Saltholme, where there is always something to see. Sadly the Long Eared Owls had been pushed deep into hiding following nearby Bonfire Night celebrations and so were not on show. So, we concentrated our efforts instead on the main Saltholme Pools hide. Plenty of wildfowl on show including Shelduck, Goldeneye, Gadwall and Pintail. Lots of Greylag, Canada and Barnacle Geese too. The best moment though perhaps was when a pair of Peregrines came in fast and low over both pools putting all the Golden Plover, Lapwing, Teal and Wigeon up seemingly just for the fun of it as they made little attempt to catch anything and departed to the North empty handed. A close pair of Stonechat, a showy Sparrowhawk and a noisy flock of Long-tailed Tits rounded off a cracking day. All in all 70 species were recorded with just the main highlights mentioned above so apologies if I’ve missed anything! Great weather, great company and great birding.

Alan S