Finally I had a full day of freedom post exams and having weighed up my options during my revision breaks over the past month I knew where I really wanted to go. That was Hartlepool to see the goodies that were up round that way.
Upon arriving in Hartlepool I first made my way round to Jackson's Landing marina to see if the glaucous gull was there, but it was not. I did get a nice year-tick in the form of Red-breasted Mergansers which were feeding the harbor.
I then made my way round to the headland where I went looking for the Shore Larks. It was quite breezy so I first walked the sheltered area of the rough ground they had been favoring, but with no luck. It was at this point that I decided coming was a mistake and that it was going to be one of those days where nothing goes your way...
How wrong I was...
I decided to walk the rough ground systematically and on the far bank, most exposed, I flushed the three Shore Larks. I saw where they went down but they still took some work to locate. I managed to get a few birders onto them in the hour or more that I was watching them. I grabbed some digiscoped shots before trying my luck with my new camera. I'll let the photos do the talking, but I was buzzing.
I was intitially going to walk the headland looking for waders heading towards the fish quay for the Slavonian Grebe. I started by seawatching off where the larks were. There were a couple of other birders too but they had spread out looking for Snow Buntings. Whilst seawatching I had yearticks of Oystercatcher, Sanderling, Shag and Red-throated Diver. I was having a field day.
I heard a twittering near me and looked up from my scope to see a Snow Bunting fly past me and land with the Larks that were still feeding behind me. I could see the other birders so whistled them over.
Whilst we were watching the bunting the news broke of a penduline tit at Saltholme. I told the other birds who offered me a lift there. I had turned down a couple of lifts earlier in the day but this news did mean that there was something else to consider for the day so I took them up on their offer.
First call was the fish quay where there were plenty of birds as well as a seal. The Slavonian Grebe took some finding but I eventually picked it up distantly fishing among the boats. There was also the earlier reported Great-northern Diver, another Red-throated Diver, a few Guillemots and Eiders. There were also a few Turnstone along the quay. It was quite a spot for an urban fish quay.
Having gained the full house at the Quay we headed down towards Saltholme. On the way we called of at a local spot for Mediterranean Gull, which duly obliged, chilling on the beach barely two meters away. We also called off at Seaton Snook Road to see if there were any shorties hunting the fields but there was not. However, there was a very obliging Stonechat.
At Saltholme we headed straight to the hide where the tits were meant to be, but it over an hour there I had no joy of a penduline tit nature. However, I had a great substitute when a Water Rail swam across the channel that was being watched. Its one of the best views I have ever had of this species, but it happened so quickly I got no photos. A Peregrine flew over too, and I got a yeartick of Stock Dove.
I got a tip off about the Long-eared Owl in Haverton Scrub so I headed that way and was kindly shown it by some local birders. It was quite the bird to see, sitting almost out in the open with its ears erect. What a view, the best I have ever had of this species, and that is saying something. What a beaut. I was able to grab plenty of photos.
After the owl I headed to Paddys Pond for the female Smew which has been at the reserve for a long time now. It showed only briefly, spending most of its time behind the island, but its still the first time I have ever seen a redhead Smew and another cracking species to add to my growing day list.
In addition to the Smew there was also a nice female Pintail and a few Barnacle Geese mingling with the canadas.
I finished off at the main hide where I added Shoveler, Shelduck and Curlew to the yearlist. Sadly there was no sign of the green-winged teal that sometimes shows there but I was not particularly bothered given how awesome the day was.
So despite a slow start today turned into one of the best days birding I have ever had, ever, thats how good it was. What a day.
Hartlepool: Shag, Shore Lark, Cormorant, Red-breasted Merganser, Long-tailed Tit, Oystercatcher, Red-throated Diver, Herring Gull, Snow Bunting, Sanderling, Great-northern Diver, Guillemot, Eider, Slavonian Grebe, Mediterranean Gull, Turnstone, Curlew, Pink-footed Goose, Wigeon, Stonechat, Skylark, Starling, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon,
Saltholme RSPB: Little Egret, Stock Dove, Greenfinch, Common Teal, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Mallard, Peregrine, Canada Goose, Wigeon, Moorhen, Water Rail, Tufted Duck, Herring Gull, Reed Bunting, Blue Tit, Little Grebe, Gadwall, Sparrowhawk, Lapwing, Common Snipe, Blackbird, Graylag Goose, Pochard, Pintail, Smew, Curlew, Shelduck, Shoveler, Fieldfare, Bullfinch, Barnacle Goose, Jackdaw,