Birding round Durham & Sunderland 2012

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

Friday, 7 February 2014

We are OFFh 2

Rambling continued
Some spots go right off the boil every now & then.
One which has had a spell or two in this category, is the grasslands at Houghton Gate. 
Having said that, its been on fire this winter  
Houghton Gate - Approach the gate & the pool empties
X30 cropped view of waders & fowl 
Here we have a large acreage of permanent grazing with a handful of subsidence ponds which have come about over the last 10 year and up to 1,500 birds have recently been using this area. January 2014 has seen 600+Curlew, 300Greylag, 300Lapwing, 100Wigeon, 60Teal with smaller no's of Pintail, Shoveller, Shelduck, waders being  further represented with Redshank, Snipe, Oystercatcher & the Black tailed Godwit
Sheldrake & Blackwit
With this many birds acting as a lure, it was only a matter before "other stuff" began to get pulled in & i've given it good coverage. 
A pair of Dunlin dropped in on 25th - after New Years bird at Rainton, one of very few January patch records, what would be next... 
Didnt have to wait long as the following day  I “popped in” in passing . 
No sign of the Dunlin, but a pale breasted bird immediately stood out on the bank… All that could be made out through bins was a decent sized wader, but it was directly head-on, only it was roosting with its head tucked into its back. 

The time was 16:40 & there wasn’t a lot of light, but through the scope I was taken aback to see it was BAR TAiLED GODWiT !  
I quickly pinged off a few texts, but it was exactly the wrong time to find a patch mega… Sunday afternoon, 10 mins before dusk , no time for others to connect.

Screen grab

Its cousin was present, so that meant both Black and Bar tailed Godwit together on an inland water in January, unreal.
A few iPhone shots & a video clip, but the light was terrible & dim & the bird not the closest

Consultation with three wise men confirmed the mega title –  fair enough, not the rarest of birds.....
Not only a site first, but a Houghton/Hetton Patch first too ! 40 years of footslogging & countless hours from the like of Messers Wilson, Heron, McClean & Co, at last I’d found something half decent the others could enjoy… 
If only  it would hang on overnight… It would have to !  I couldn’t chalk it off my Footit list otherwise as that afternoon i was in the motor !

So Monday school run came & went, off into a pleasant bright morning, I toyed with the idea of doing a recce in the motor first… but that would have kinda defeated the object. So a stroll down that way in under an hour & you guessed no sign. 
At 10:30 things began to look up as the Black-wit came in with 200 Curlew. The day was springlike sunny & breezy, Buzzards were getting up over the estate & I tried a long shot scoping across into Gatesheads Red Kite country. It took more than three quarters of an hour, but I eventually saw one, distant but distinctive, low over the horizon way over Kimblesworth Grange area, approx 5.5miles away. 
This was another  good addition as despite their closeness I don’t see Red Kite at home on an annual basis. (early Feb & ive scoped 2-3 closer near Ouston/Urpeth)
I filled 2 further hours between here & Lumley Castle, adding various species & finding those 2 nice Green Sands. I’d just spoken to Derek Ch on the phone to say id given up & was gonna head off, so one last scan over the Estate.
“What on earth…!” – a large dark long billed, funny shaped bird with trailing legs… all manner of strange big bird names came to mind, diver, stork, crane etc all raced through my brain, but in a second the penny dropped.... GLOSSY IBIS !

Whoa ! – now that’s  a bonus bird if ever I saw one. I rang DC back from the middle of the A1M bridge – obviously he couldnt hear a thing ! It was coming closer & sure to land on The Gate Pool.  Rushing across the motorway only to see 600 mixed Curlew & Lapwing up in the air – Its looked like this gangly stranger with strange trailing legs had spooked the lot !  Some of the Lapwings got behind it & it circled away gaining height, it slowly drifted away rising over Elba Park & Sedgeletch – I rang Mick, maybe he was outside on a teabreak… it was flying over his workplace ! 
Ibis drifts away as the Lapwings settle
Sadly no one else local got onto it, but it did get picked up coming in over Saltholme 2 hours 20 later.
What a great rarity….perhaps not….
Look at this map of sightings since Oct 2013

Give it a decade & they’ll be all over the shop.

Best bird of my Footit…?  Simple, but The BAR-WIT could have so easily won hands down.
The List was well over the ton, so a couple of coastal trips to finish off with a final tally of 124 on foot from home.

Heres a selected Houghton Gate List Jan 2014.
4/1 Greenland White-fronted Geese x2 (PHi)
8/1 Black tailed Godwit / Shoveller
16/1 Shelduck / Pintail
18/1 Oystercatcher
25/1 Dunlin x2
26/1 Bar tailed Godwit
27/1 Red Kite / Glossy Ibis

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