Well, we made it down to Newcastle in good time on Friday and hoped for good weather with lots opportunities for birding. It never works out the way you want it though! We had a quick trip out on Sunday in the sunshine to have a browse around St Mary's Island...
Thousands of birds around but not many of them close enough for photos. About a thousand Golden Plover and half that amount of Lapwing graced the rocky shoreline. The tide was coming in and pushing the birds into the air to resettle closer in but we didn't have time to wait for them to come real close. Plenty of Mallard, Teal and Gadwall on the wetland with a few Moorhen out there too. First real photo opportunity was of the local Mute Swans flying across the pond. A male Sparrowhawk flashed across the wetland and caused a stir just before we bumped into an old friend and spent the next 20 minutes catching up:-) We were told where to look for the Water Pipit so we headed for the beach. We did find at least 6 Rock Pipit on the beach before being distracted by the waders. Dunlin, Turnstone and Sanderling were in good numbers with a few Ringed Plover here and there.
We had to move on before we located the Water Pipit but there is always another day. Briar Dene car park was the next stop for an adult Med Gull - we failed again! The Herring Gull and Common Gull...... were the only different birds to the squad of chip guzzling Black-headed Gulls.
So the first day of birding was a cracking day out but didn't give us any of the rare ones.
Monday we headed South of the Tyne to catch up with the Red Kites. The big problem was the light - there wasn't any. We hit the feeding station first and it was just stunning. Bullfinches, Nuthatch, Coal Tit etc all at close quarters but moving too fast in the poor light to get any snaps. Even so the Magpies were showing their colours to great effect......there were plenty of Jays in the area too.......rooting around on the ground for spilled nuts and even clinging onto the feeders too! Stock Dove was another bird that was nice to see again but the female Sparrowhawk that dashed through the didn't seem to be that hungry. We did see a Red Kite from the feeding station but it was a bit brief so we headed off to the next hide. We picked up another Kite almost immediately and didn't have to wait too long for a photo opportunity. Again the light got the better of the chance.The best views we got of the Kites were as we drove along the road, the birds just cruising overhead and nowhere to stop - fabulous all the same! A quick stop at Killingworth Lake was worthwhile with a few Goldeneye, Goosander, Tufted Duck, Mute Swan, Canada Goose and, of course, Coots in the clarts. No birding on Tuesday so we headed for the Druridge coast on Wednesday. Cresswell Pond was the first port of call and we could hear Tree Sparrows straight away. We weren't sure how close we would get to these birds so we took our time approaching them. We needn't have worried as they didn't leave until we went through the gate they were perched above.A Great Tit was sitting pretty in the same bush and I didn't want to be rude.A few Linnets scattered away and a Yellowhammer decided we weren't that scary and perched up next to us - stunning! A Robin escorted us down the track in hope of a few crumbs but we didn't have any.The Blue Tits were too busy feeding in the reedbed to worry about us......all of that before we got to the hide! Sadly, the water levels were too high for the birds to be close to the hide. Plenty of Lapwing, Curlew and Golden Plover were gracing the fields with a few Wigeon for company. A distinct lack of Shoveler around all of the ponds was a surprise. A few Teal were dabbling along the near shore......and three Little Grebe weren't too far away. A bit of a commotion in the reedbed was a Moorhen chasing a Water Rail. There wasn't a great deal of cover but the Water Rail used it well while dashing between the gaps... ...all the running around flushed a Snipe out of the reeds too.Druridge Pools didn't produce too much so we headed off to East Chevington. A couple of Buzzard were as exciting as it got apart from 6 White-fronted Geese. I should have digiscoped these birds but I didn't - foolish!
On the way back down the road we saw the 2000 strong flock of Pink-footed Geese in the air. I'm not that big a fan of geese but the sound of a large flock calling to each other is something to behold.