Birding round Durham & Sunderland 2012

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

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

We're OFFh, No cars needed

Had a good go at the Footit List during January.
The idea being to see as many bird species as possible on foot from home. OFFH, something we've been doing locally for.... decades.
(Think I'll best do this over 2 blog entries)

Lapwings arriving to roost at Chilton Moor
Last year i saw 111 including a single trip to the coast, which added 10 species.
So a realistic target this year would be aim for an inland 100, with as many as possible on usual local-patch stomping grounds  & then head off with perhaps 20 others to be added with coastal visits.

A good start on New Years day in the company of MH saw a solid 70 in the bag - The highlight being 2 Mealy Redpoll perched at close range. The Seventy giving a real insight into the wealth of birds to be found locally.

No two years are the same, and the rapidly changing climate & unpredictable seasons are certainly making our hobby interesting.... if somewhat worrying...  This mild winter has had its pros & cons. On the plus side our first overwintering Black tailed Godwit - a species which has become more familiar over recent years, but overwintering inland in NE.England is ridiculous.
Black wit overwintering at H'Gate pool.
A decent autumn showing converting into a final trio which made it to the years end & this one staying with us into 2014.  A single yes, but by no means alone! its finding company & security in a three figure flock of Curlew which has peaked at over a whopping 630 birds, with frequent trips off down to Chartershaugh.
On the other hand, 2 hard cold winters out of the last 4 have changed the habits of overwintering Chiffchaffs, with none being noted on the patch - c/p 5 or 6 birds at Sedgeletch alone when the Siberian was there.  The result, an easy one missing from the OFFH list. Mild conditions have meant far fewer winter thrushes & finches, eg Fieldfare & Siskin pretty thin on the ground, Water Rail, Snipe & both asio Owls in far fewer no's than usual.
Our local patch holds several special species over winter, Green Sandpipers giving a good showing with perhaps 4 or 5 this year in the Houghton to Chester area.  The unlikely looking modern sewage works at Ch-le-St holding is regular winter bird, while close by these 2 were found on floodwater near Lumley Castle:-

Water Rail have a scattered breeding population here, with several sites producing sightings; eg Joes Pond/Rainton complex, Sedgeletch, Seaton Pond, but as usual The Bogs has been the place for them.
Rail head
Locally we have a number of keen owlers & some owls for them to go at. But, the halcyon days of ALL 5 in 37 minutes now seem a lifetime away. Short-eared hasnt showed up yet... amazing when i think that some years i've counted up to 24 at roost ! Barnies are back down the slippery slope after a rapid recovery & now take a bit of work. The Big Luggs are hiding out there but a disastrous season in 2013 has knocked them back & currently "bad to get" . 

A couple of Greenland White-fronted Geese initially picked up by Man with Stick CW at Leamside were only the second patch record, but they quickly headed north into GyetsHeed, luckily i managed to re-find them down in the R.Wear valley at Chartershaugh Flashes, plus a swimming Pheasant ! both site firsts.
Greenland White-fronted Goose
Great Crested Pheasant
Charterhaugh Flashes
Hope this gives a flavour of some of the birds about.
Part 2 to follow....

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