Yesterday was one of the most eagerly awaited days of the year for me, the annual South Tyneside Bird Race. A challenge to see (or hear!) as many different species of birds as possible in an 8 hour period. The beauty of this is you never really know what you are going to see or miss, no matter how much planning goes into it. This year my team was without one of our long term members, Dougie, due to family commitments so it was just the three of us (myself, Steve (Seggs), & Paul Dann) to carry on the challenge. The following are the sites we visited and the more notable birds we saw.........
We started the day at Trow in the hope of an early sighting of one of the resident Little Owls, but unfortunately they didnt come out to say hello. We had to make do with a couple of the commoner species of Gull and a flock of Oystercatchers. A couple of Shags flew by out at sea and a single Red Throated Diver followed soon after. We had a walk up to the mound and flushed a pair of Reed Buntings but nothing else.
A nice walk round the park got us our first song birds including Greenfinch and Coal Tit, and also Great Spotted Woodpecker which was heard but not seen. On the pond we got our first ducks of the day including a few Pochards, but unfortunately no sign of the Mandarin today.
MARSDEN CAR PARK
Our first attempt failed to get us the resident Med Gull, but thankfully a nice old lady brought along some bread and in swooped the Med Gull on cue for us to be able to tick it.
Another attempt at a Little Owl, and unfortunately another dip!
A long shot, we had a look to see if any Tawny Owls were out. They were'nt.
The feeders got us the expected Yellowhammers and Tree Sparrows. The pond had Wigeons and Teals but nothing else of note. Stock Doves were in the fields, but the highlight was a cracking Peregrine flying over that myself and Paul got a look at but Steve was in the wrong place and missed it!
NEWTON GARTH FARM
Rooks and Grey Partridge were the only new additions here.
There's usually quite a big flock of Lesser Redpolls here, but amazingly we only seen one bird! Still, it was a tick. The other bird that everybody comes here for is the Willow Tit that comes to feeders in a garden that backs onto the woods. After an anxious few minutes we managed to see one. We also got a lovely male Bullfinch as a nice bonus.
RED BARNES POND
Apparently this place is literally only just in South Tyneside. In fact half of the pond is actually in the borough of Gateshead! But the three new birds we got here (Goosander, Jay & Siskin) all counted in the Race.
SAXON WAY - JARROW
A quick look here got us Mistle Thrush but no Waxwings.
RIVER DON/JARROW SLAKE
Our first Redshanks of the day and amazingly the first Cormorants were a good start, and after a little search the hoped for Little Grebe put in an appearance. The mouth of the Don got us Herons, Shelduck and an unexpected Eider flying past.
The only new bird here was a big flock of Redwings, but we did get to see a GS Woodpecker this time.
We got here just as the tide was in, and unfortunately the wader numbers werent that high. But we did manage to see 8 new species for our list.
Seeing as we missed out on the Ringed Plovers at the Steel we had to pop over here to see them. Thankfully there were a handful on the beach.
WHITBURN LODGE CARPARK
We had pretty much finished for the day so headed off to the pub to meet up with the other teams, but as we were waiting in the car park a flock of over 100 Pink Footed Geese flew high overhead. One more species for our list!
At the end of the day, we were actually disappointed with our total, which was 72 species. This was quite low compared to recent years but it was actually enough to get us joint second with Keith, Ian & Greames team. The winning team of John Brown, Andy, Hoggy and Walter had a total of 79 species which was quite comfortable in the end. But as I keep saying, it really doesnt matter in the slightest who wins, its just an extremely pleasurable day out with your mates. What more could you ask for!!!