Friday, 12 November 2021

Celebrating freedom with some birding

Today, on my first day being allowed out of the house after having Covid, I went for a bike ride to Seal Sands, a wide bay/inlet at the point where Greatham Creek flows into the River Tees. The tide was still quite high when I got there and I spent quite a while, first in the bird-hide and then walking along the sea wall on the south side of the inlet - looking at various ducks and other water-birds, and chatting to a friendly employee of the nearby PD-ports who pulled up in his van as I was scanning the water with my scope. I thought he was going to tell me I couldn't be there but had actually stopped to tell me about another bird-hide I didn't know about and about how much he loves watching the seals.

I had been hoping to see a Long-tailed Duck which has been seen in the area a few times recently, but in the absence of that I enjoyed watching Red-breasted Mergansers - with 2 males occasionally doing a sort of half-hearted version of their slightly comical courtship display to the females. There were also a few Common Goldeneyes, a Great-crested Grebe (in its grey-and-white winter plumage) and some distant Shelducks. 

Red-breasted Mergansers (1 male and 5 females) 

A male Red-breasted Merganser. Despite its long thin bill (with tooth-like
serrations for catching fish), this is actually a kind of duck. It's one you are
unlikely ever to see on a park lake though.

Female Goldeneyes. Although much less flashy than the male (which I
featured in a blog back in March Saltholme & Seal Sands), this is still a
lovely little duck with it's chocolatey brown head.

After going as far as I was allowed along the sea wall I went down to the the hide on 'the Long Drag' (I love these local birders' names for sites, that mostly don't appear on any maps) to have my lunch while counting the waders on the mud - 11 Redshank, 2 Black-tailed Godwits and a Curlew. On the way back up to the road I looked through the Wigeon and Teal on the tidal pools (c50 and c10 respectively) but didn't see anything unusual among them. 

The wind was pretty strong by now, so after talking to two birders next to the seal-watching hide, who had just been photographing a flock of Twite (that sadly flew off as I approached), I headed back, into the wind, towards Saltholme and then (after a fairly fruitless exploration of the reserve (still no Merlin for the NMT-list 😞)) home.

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