Birding round Durham & Sunderland 2012

Birdwatching in & around Houghton-le-Spring, Sunderland, County Durham.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Durham City Birding

2nd Jan 2012

We enjoyed a pleasant walk upriver following the Wear into Durham & back out round up Old Durham Beck

Starting at Kepier where much of the stone for the Cathedral was quarried, in the wood here Treecreeper, Jay, GSWpkr, & LTTit
Over the years waterfowl on this stretch has included Shoveller, Pochard, Red Crested Pochard, Scaup, Mandarin

The "Shooting Range" - with the river & tree-clad riverside cliffs behind used for target practice in WW II ( or earlier ?).
Kestrel, GBBGull, Heron, Stock Dove, male Sparrowhawk & Treecreeper on this stretch - often a good spot for Green Woodpecker.
 Another Kelt - a long dead spent game-fish, either Salmon or Sea Trout
 A Grey Wagtail flew up from close by, briefly landing on the Willow posts
 Evidence from the old bottle tip - items washed out every now & then in the floods ( Initials probably refer to 'Gilesgate, Durham' just along the road.
 Willow posts & weave to prevent erosion on this bend - a bit more attractive than the square steel gabions filled with rocks
 Heron prints - first couple of Dabchick & Goosanders noted while loitering here - with Gannet, Merganser & Great Northern Diver scarcities seen here previously & a regular winter spot for Water Rail & Green Sand.
 The old brick kiln - a listed building at the bottom of Kepier banks - inside was evidence of a regular Kestrel roost & a  handful of Little Owl castings

Gatehouse of Kepier Hospital - built in 14th century - the hospital being founded in 1112
A large orchard is attached, the trees a fair old age - i have noted Hawfinch here on 3 dates over the years
 Crossing the river onto the West bank & into the City proper
From the spot below an excellent selection of waterbirds - Grey & Pied Wag, Heron, Goosander & Cormorant all visible - a pair of Dippers here were great to watch - they were formerly only a sporadic winter visitor  & im sure i spotted a nice spot for a nest box when the water drops again...
- on the LHS is the bowling alley, formerly the Ice Rink, with the Gala Theatre etc behind.  In recent years Yellow legged & Med Gulls have been noted
 The Weir held 10 Cormorants sleeping on the stranded tree trunks, allowing a close view - one to re-visit with the phone-scoping gear

The next section is the Cathedral Peninsular - its amazing how you can take something that you see every day for granted......
Whilst taking snaps here & chatting, a Kingfisher flew across from the far bank - absolutely glistening in the afternoon sun & landing to the delight of myself & the assembled tourists & day-trippers

Durhams answer to Pensha Monument
 The southern end of the peninsular is a lot quieter - loads of woodland birds here & some sizeable veteran trees- several Nuthatches, Goldcrest, Treecreeper & LTTits today - LSW having been noted several times over the years.
 A rowing club jetty close to Elvet bridge....
 A closer inspection of the fresh silt revealed fresh otter tracks
 Elvet bridge& ye olde dwellings perched on the bridge - not so many birds here - but very close to a historical record of breeding Black Redstart....
Last time we visited we had the Kingfisher 150m up river.
 Heres a bonny Muscovy for the bird-club twitchers.... maybe not - they'll not be able to get the car close enough....
 The next half mile the Wear is canalised along 'The Race course' stretch, but a few Dabchick, Goosander & Cormorant held interest whilst the semi-natural woodlands of Pelaw certainly warrant a closer inspection, pathside Bullfinch & Song Thrush the only birds of note on this popular walkway, although a clatter from a group of Magpies which presumably had a Tawny in their sights...

Below, as the afternoon was waring on, we passed below the site of Maiden Castle - an Iron Age Hill Fort - a couple of guys were metal detecting , so i lobbed half a dozen twos & ones into the field....
The mature trees on the top are @60' to give an idea of scale
At this point farmland & open country species began to appear - Yellowhammer & Skylark being two additions to the day list.
 Old Durham Gardens - the site of the most northerly Roman bath house - the frost hadnt given here in the shadows & a couple of Redwings flew from the leaf litter.
 Over the sports fields & up the Old Durham Beck - a group of 6 Grey Herons stood in a nearby field, a flutey warble from up the beck could only belong to one species & one of my favourites the Dipper - how well they've come on in lowland Durham over the last couple of years - Great stuff !

A rough area in the valley bottom between Schincliffe & Old Durham marks the site of an old greyhound track - other clumps of scrub nearby are noted for follow up visits.....

A local Jack Snipe pool close to the end of the walk - sadly none today, but a large tribe of 20+ LTTit
I tried a site for Tawny & Little Owl on the final furlong but the wind picked right up & i drew a blank... for now.......


  1. What a great post! Really interesting and informative.


  2. Glad you enjoyed it Malcolm

    I was chatting to a lady working on some Small Pilgrim Places Walks for Dham Co. Council & it got me thinking about all the things I pass on my way that I take for granted - lots of interesting stuff right round Durham.

    Might try a Battle of Nevilles Cross birding walk - I need to swat up, cos all I can remember is a couple of the armys camped at Beaurepaire, Bearpark Hall - another of my favoured birding spots.

    Lots of other places within walking distance including Cassop Vale, Croxdale & Sundland Bridge, Brasside & Finchale etc etc

    I have a nice report to write up from Hawthorn Dene, but I can't get my hands on the laptop at present - this phone has certain limitations !