Sunday, 7 September 2008

East Coast: Cleveland & Co. Durham - 7th Sept 2008.

The first decent east coast fall of the autumn on Saturday 6th Sept, saw Myself, Dave Bickerton and Bill Berry hastily arrange a days birding for the following day to indulge in some drift migrants.

Departing Blackburn at 07:00 we had intended to go directly to South Gare, but the discovery of a Greenish Warbler at Hartlepool saw us change plan and we headed directly to the Headland for a check of the area, and to try and find out where exactly the Greenish site, West View Cemetary, was.

Arriving at Hartlepool, the pager informed us that an Icterine Warbler had been trapped somewhere on the Headland, so we made our first stop the Bowling Green nr the Doctors Garden. This was a great decision as no sooner had we got out the car that we were told the Icky was still being processed in a garage-cum-ringing-hut just around the street corner, so we hurried round where in-hand views of a fine Icky was had.

Icterine Warbler - Olive Street, Hartlepool, Cleveland - 7th Sept 2008.

The Icterine Warbler was released and 30 minutes birding in this area produced 5 Pied Flycatcher, 2 Redstart, Willow Warblers, Garden Warbler, Blackcap and a Wheatear.

Then followed a fateful decision to do a spot of seawatching, which produced very little except Kittiwake, Sandwich Tern, Eider and Gannet, and cost us another in-hand Icterine Warbler at the same location as the first!

A walk to the Sycamores at Borough Hall saw good numbers of Willow Warbler in the trees, 2+ Pied Flycatcher and an excellent Wood Warbler, whilst a flava Wagtail was noted overhead. The concensus amongst locals was that there were many fewer birds than the previous day, when 100+ Redstart were present on the headland, but for us the was migrants were plentiful enough to keep us more than interested!

With better directions to West View Cemetary and news that the Greenish had been seen again, we made the short car journey there where we failed to connect with the very elusive, non-calling Greenish in 1.5hrs. Another Wood Warbler, 20+ Willow Warbler, 1 Pied Flycatcher and male Redstart were noted in the Sycamores.

It was now midday and a phone call to a friend in-situ at South Gare revealed that no scarce migrants had been found there as yet, but there were pleasing numbers of common migrants.

A decision was made to head further north into Co. Durham, with the main target bird a Subalpine Warbler at Trow Quarry north of Whitburn, but since the initial report no further news had been paged out, but we still decided to head that way.

Forty minutes later we arrived at what we thought was Trow Quarry, and began to work the wrong area of cover, a small group of very stunted hawthorns atop a mound surrounded by rank grass. This proved worthwhile and very enjoyable as 3 Redstart, 3 Garden Warbler, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Spotted Flycatcher and 4 Willow Warbler were noted in this very small area. Delightful!

A local birder then walked up and pointed us in the right direction. A few hundred metres away was the depression of Trow Quarry, a superb migrant trap with weedy areas, sycamore, Hawthorn and Elder against a small former quarry face.

More migrants were immediately apparent; Pied Flycatcher (above), 5+ Redstart, several Wheatear, Blackcap, Willow Warblers and two Common Whitethroat, soon followed by the absolutely delightful Subalpine Warbler which gave very nice scope views on+off for the next hour.

Subalpine Warbler - Trow Quarry, Co. Durham - 7th Sept 2008.

Whinchat was added to the day list, as was a Wryneck as it fed on a distant cliff face.

Having feasted on the Subalpine and other migrants, we then dipped the second Greenish Warbler of the day, nr the Doctors Garden in Whitburn. Two Spotted Flycatcher were the only migrants of any note.

Now approaching late afternoon, we began to head south and a check of some random bushes at Seaton produced two Redstarts.

Shortly afterwards, the pager alerted us to the discovery of a GREAT SNIPE(!!), seen three times in flight on South Gare! I had only ever seen one before, at Sammies Point, Spurn, in May 1989..... 19 long years ago!

We arrived at the Gare at 17:53, pulling up by a small gathering of birders. Scope out of the car I began to walk over when suddenly they all raised their 'bins' in unison.... The Great Snipe had been flushed and was in flight...... I ran over and immediately got onto the bird with my 'bins'.... Although not close, bulk, mode of flight and dark underwings were apparent.... unquestionably a Great Snipe! What good fortune! - The Snipe landed out of sight behind a ridge so I and others went over in an attempt to relocate the bird, but no joy was had in the next hour, though I did flush a Wryneck from my feet in the process, as well as a few Wheatear.

And there ended another memorable autumn day on the east coast.