I should have done it ages ago, but yesterday I, at last, got round to suggesting Middle Marsh Nature Reserve as a hotspot on the global bird-sightings database (and website and phone app) that is e-Bird, so it is now possible for anyone with an e-Bird account to enter sightings of birds seen at Middle Marsh, or to view data about sightings from there, made by other birders.
In case you haven't heard of it before, e-Bird is an online database which was set up in 2002 by the famous 'Cornell University Lab of Ornithology'. Since then over a billion bird records have been submitted to it by over 2 million people around the world. I've had an e-Bird account since 2018 but until recently didn't use it very much. Since September I have been using my phone to record all of my birding trips on e-Bird and am now going through my old notebooks to enter all my old data from Middle Marsh, the site in North Ormesby, Middlesbrough that was designated as a Local Wildlife Site (LWS) in 2020, under the name Middle Marsh Nature Reserve.
So now I'm going to tell you a bit more about Middle Marsh than (I think) I have told you before.
Middle Marsh is a 'brownfield site' (meaning a site which has previously been developed but which has returned to nature) in east Middlesbrough, immediately south of Middlesbrough Dock and the Riverside Stadium (home to Middlesbrough F.C), and just across the A66 from North Ormesby. I've been going there since 2016 and in that time have seen or heard 68 species of bird, as well as 220 species of flowering plant, 13 butterflies, three dragonflies and various other insects and wildlife.
Historically (going back before the railway was built in the mid 19th century, when North Ormesby was just a few houses) the area would probably have been nearly all saltmarsh, and tidal mud with two streams, Ormesby Beck and Middle Beck, running through it into the River Tees. I've not been able to find any detailed maps from before the railway was built but I think the two becks would have entered the Tees separately. A third beck, Marton West Beck, now joins Ormesby Beck at the south-west corner of the nature reserve and I think probably did in those days too (but I can't be sure). After the railway was built the courses of the three becks were altered so that they all now flow into the Tees at the same point, but the saltmarsh persisted for a little longer, first with the name Great Marsh, and later (by the 1890s and maybe earlier) with the name Middle Marsh.
At some point (or more likely several different points) after the 1890s, the level of the land on both sides of Ormesby Beck was raised by the importation of large amounts of soil and other 'fill' and the area that is now Middle Marsh Nature Reserve (apart from the beck itself) was gradually covered by industry and housing. In the late 20th century, when all the industry on the south side of the beck had ceased, and the A66 road had been built, the area was landscaped and returned to nature, with a pond and thousands of new trees along the beck. At this point the area of grassland and scrub would have been much bigger than it is now, before the Middlehaven Gateway Retail Park and its massive car park were built. What is left now has mostly been left unmanaged from the turn of the millennium until the Local Wildlife Site was declared in late 2020, and it has developed its own character, with a mosaic of woodland, wetland, scrub and grassland.
Since the designation of the LWS several new ponds have been dug (the old one had gradually got filled in over the years), the path along the beck has been reinstated and a hedge planted along two of the roads forming the boundary of part of the site. Also, the tidal barrage on the beck, just downstream of the Navigation Inn, is in the process of being removed by the Environment Agency (who own it) and the beck is now tidal up until at least as far as Shepherdson Way.
Although Middle Marsh is actually quite small, as birding sites go, and the number of species encountered on a visit can be quite low (often less than 20), it often includes some really nice birds - for example, Kingfishers, Little Egrets, Sparrowhawks and Kestrels (and, although I haven't seen them myself there, Barn Owl and Peregrine).
Some of the best spots for birds are shown in the map below ( ⓒ Google Maps 2022), and described below that.