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Trip Report Northumberland 2019 (1 Viewer)


Average Birder
Just back from an amazing trip with 12 lifers and many other good birds! Trip report to follow. Thanks for the many tip-offs for sites which were very helpful during my trip.

Day one - the long drive:

We had a long drive up from Norfolk after school. We got to the Premier Inn at Queen Elizabeth II Country Park at around 8pm. I heard a Reed Warbler upon arrival along with some common duck, goose and gull species.

Day two - Farnes and twitch:

An early start got us to Seahouses by 9:00. After checking in with Billy Shiel's Boat Trips, we picked out Shag (a new bird for me), Eider, Guillemot, Bottlenose Dolphin and more on the sea. On the boat trip out to the Farne Islands, we first witnessed the masses of seabirds constantly zooming overhead and fishing on the sea (including two new ones for my list - Puffin and Arctic Tern) as well as Grey Seal hauled out. We then arrived at Staple Island and the sound of Guillemots was deafening. On our two hours on the island the highlights were Shags (most nesting next to the path), Guillemots (thousands upon thousands of them), Razorbill (a few hundred pairs scattered throughout the islands), Puffin, Kittiwake, Fulmar (a few pairs near the new shed), Oystercatcher, Rock Pipit, Mallard and Pied Wagtail. After this, we proceeded to Inner Farne where we saw more of the same (although I didn't spot Fulmar and Oystercatcher) as well as breeding Arctic Tern, Common Tern and Sandwich Tern. At this point, the advice to bring a hat was very useful with Arctic Terns attacking my head as I walked along the path. I scanned the Terns at the jetty for a Roseate but had no luck. Just as we were about to leave I picked up a Red-breasted Merganser on the sea. On the way into the harbour at Seahouses, we saw several pairs of Eider with young. To conclude, the Farne Islands is a spectacle that you must see (not sponsored, honest) if you haven't already.

On the way back, we planned on seeing the Baikal Teal so when we heard that a dog had run onto Druridge and flushed it, we were a bit disappointed. However, when stopping for petrol the message came through, Baikal Teal at Hemscott Hill. We soon found the huge crowd (2 people) scanning the obscured pools from the road. We were soon joined by at least 10 more people but had no luck. However, my observant self had noticed a footpath down the road that then headed towards the pools. I lead the group towards the pools, seeing Tree Sparrow (an overdue lifer for me) and a 'Channel' Wagtail along the way, but there was still no sign of the Baikal. People were starting to leave by the time I saw 2 Mallards seemingly land over a small hill, I decided to investigate. I edged over the small hill, trying to not flush any birds waiting on the muddle pool/puddle I saw on the field. I lifted my bins and the first bird I saw was the Baikal. I frantically waved everyone else over and we all enjoyed great views of the beautiful bird (another lifer for me).

Day 3 - Kielder and bonus goodies:

We woke up to rain, rain and more rain on this day but we still had hope of good birds. The first stop of the morning was on the coast near Coquet Island. Let's just say the only thing I succeeded in doing was getting wet. The second stop after a beautiful drive through the Northumberland countryside was Kielder Water. On arrival, we were greeted by Tree Sparrow and after just 5 minutes we had great scope views of an Osprey over the water. Next, we spotted the Osprey watchpoint and we made our way over there. The friendly bunch there showed us a distant nest, where we saw one bird perched on top and gave us some info on the Ospreys and a reserve I hadn't found in my prior research, Bakethin. As it was a short drive away, we decided to head there to see what we could find. As we ambled our way along the path I soon heard the 'jup jup jup' calls which I had learnt thanks to Nutcracker's recommendation. We saw a few birds high in the canopy but decided to stop for a better view on the way back as our views were less than tickable. At the hide, we saw a pair of Common Sandpiper and then our best views of Osprey yet as a bird soared past. On our way back, we stopped to try to get better views of the Crossbill. As we waited, a few Siskins kept us company. After a short wait, a male Crossbill briefly sang from the top of a nearby tree, giving us great views of this fascinating bird. As the bird flew away, we got in the car and headed to our next location, Grindon Lough for the American Wigeon. Halfway to Grindon Lough we stopped at a random river by a road and saw both Goosander and Mandarin with young. When we arrived at the Eastern end of the lough, we only saw Shelduck, Lapwing, Mute Swan and Redshank. Then, we spotted some distant ducks feeding at the Western end. We soon got to the Western end and scanned what we could now see were a flock of about 10 Wigeon. I put the scope onto the Wigeon and their American cousin stood out straight away. Another wonderful new duck for my list. As we had spare time, we popped over to Country Durham to a location for Black Grouse I had been given in a PM. I was expecting to have to trek for at least half an hour up to a suitable grouse looking moor but it seems I did my homework wrong as I spotted some black and white birds in a field as we drove past and we screeched to a halt. There were 11 male and at least 1 female (probably more females hiding in the grass) Black Grouse! Another truly beautiful bird to watch (and just about hear) and another tick for my list. We then proceeded to our hotel on the outskirts of Darlington (not a lake view this time).

Day 4 - Journey back with stops:

We were now done with Northumberland as we had to slowly amble our way back home during the day. The first pit stop was Wykeham where we spent an hour. Although I can't always expect the birds to show for me (most seem to though), I was disappointed to only see a few Common Buzzards, a Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk in my stay of around 90 minutes. We then proceeded to drive to Flamborough to see the rarities there. I was just walking out to the Black-headed Bunting when I received a call, Black Guillemot off the Foghorn. As this would be a lifer for me and is more likely to disappear than the Bunting, I sprinted there right away. I am afraid the pager message left out the key details, the bird was seen hours beforehand and was miles out at sea. In other words, it could have travelled hundreds of miles by the time the message was put out. So far in the day, no luck at all. It seemed this was about to change as when I arrived at the very popular Black-headed Bunting twitch everyone was looking at the bird as I arrived. I quickly got the scope onto it and got views of yet another stunning rarity. After this easy twitch, we decided to try our luck with the Subalpine Warbler sp. We waited an hour with no sign and then someone called it but in a different location its normal location. No one else got onto the bird before it disappeared and I do wonder if it was actually the closeby female Lesser Whitethroat instead that he had seen. Someone's phone then rang with news of an Alpine Swift at North Landing so as everyone was scanning the skies for that, I kept my eye on 'the bush'. After a few more minutes, I saw a warbler jump up onto a twig and then fly right away. I followed my instinct and called Subalpine but afterwards, I realised that in my extremely brief view I hadn't noticed anything separating the bird from Lesser Whitethroat. We had to continue South at this point so I decided to leave the Warbler (and not tick it).

Our final stop was Frampton Marsh RSPB for Black-necked Grebe. Although we only had 30 minutes, I was very impressed by the selection of ducks to offer on the pool adjacent to reception. Whilst scanning for the Black-necked Grebe coming up from its dive (a lifer for me), I spotted a pair of Garganey as well (another lifer)! Further scanning produced Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, Tufties, Pintail and a few waders. Also, a large group of Bar-tailed Godwits flew over. To finish off, a Cetti's sung briefly in bushes near the car park as I was getting in the car. We then left and our trip was over.

To conclude, I had a great time with many beautiful birds including many lifers with the bonus of several rarities. Would I recommend Northumberland? I would definitely recommend Northumberland for the 'good' birds and the scenery to go with them.

P.S. - I don't have the time to waste proof-reading this, it probably has a few mistakes.
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Pleased to hear you enjoyed Northumberland, as someone who lives 3 miles from Grindon Lough, I can verify it's a beautiful region to explore

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