For the first day of the New Year, I decided to stay local and see what birds I could get for my Sunderland Year List. First place was Cox Green, where a Long Tailed Duck had been seen for the last couple of days. I picked it up fairly quickly, along with a nice pair of Goosanders. Three Jays were in trees on the opposite side of the river, and a nice selection of common birds were picked up in a half hour stay. Next stop was Chester-Le-Street park, where unfortunately I missed the Mandarin thats been around lately, but a Scaup in amongst the Tufties and a Whooper Swan with the Mutes were a nice consolation. Off next to Sedgeletch, which was very quiet. The bright spot (apart from a male Great Spotted Woodpecker flying just over my head!) was easily the outstanding views of the resident Kingfisher hunting just yards away from where I was standing. The final port of call was the now world famous Rainton Meadows! Its been in the spotlight recently because of the big mixed flocks of Redpolls that are wintering, including possibly up to four ARCTIC REDPOLLS! When I arrived there was already a small gathering of birders, including the Foghorn and Paul Hindness. They had seen the Redpolls just minutes beforehand and confirmed that a couple of Arctics were still around. Shortly after my arrival Derek Charlton arrived and within minutes the Redpoll flock returned. All eyes busily scanned. Lesser Redpolls were abundant, and a nice amount of Mealy's very easily stood out. And even better, a single ARCTIC REDPOLL was picked out, surprisingly easily! This was my very first Arctic Redpoll, so I was absolutely delighted. I was enjoying great views through my bins when Derek gave me the chance to look through his scope. What a little stunner it was!!! The flock came and went three or four times in the hour we were there, giving us all satisfactory views. A nice bonus was a flock of 20+ Waxwings flying overhead. Myself, Derek and Micky Heron then decided to see if any Long Eared Owls were in their usual spot. After a brief search we found one individual roosting and had nice views. At this point it was getting dark so we decided to call it a day. The only real disappointment was missing out on the resident Bittern(s), but hey, theres the rest of the year to go!
LONG TAILED DUCK & LONG EARED OWL