6th March 2013 – Mixed fortunes in Cleveland

Me and Col decided to leave the Solway behind today for a spot of birding in Cleveland. We had listed a few target species that we were hoping to connect with – and top of the list was Caspian Gull. I haven’t seen one of these since 1999, so for me it would almost be like a lifer again. They are mega rare birds up here in the north and as far as I can recall there hasn’t even been one in Cumbria yet. So with a small number of birds being regularly reported on Seaton Common in Cleveland we thought we were in with a shout.

We pulled up at the side of the road and through the murky conditions we could see hundreds and hundreds of gulls. After scanning through them for some time we eventually conceded that we weren’t going to be seeing a Caspian today. The views weren’t great (here come the excuses), it was sort of misty and gloomy, all the large gulls were furthest away, and most of them were hidden by hundreds of smaller gulls. Basically all we could see were their heads. It just wasn’t gonna happen, so to cut a long story short – we didn’t see a Caspian Gull, or perhaps we did and we totally overlooked it, but either way we decided to go birding elsewhere. But fair play to those out there who can ID them in the conditions we had today – definitely big respect!

So on to the bits and bobs that we did see – through the gloom at Dorman’s Pool there were 3 Smew including a dapper drake, and a few squealing Water Rails, and there was a drake Scaup on the east pool at Saltholme.

At Holme Fleet I quickly picked out the Tundra Bean Goose amongst the Greylags. It gave pretty good views too…

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We then headed up to Hartlepool Headland for the Black-throated Diver which we thought was gonna be a dead cert. Wrong again. We checked Jackson’s Landing where it was often reported, and scanned as much of the harbour as we could, but there was no sign of the blighter anywhere. However  Col did pick out a cracking Red-necked Grebe which gave us unbeatable views…

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And over half-a-dozen Purple Sands were also seen in this area…

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We retraced our steps but it was getting even gloomier and had also started to drizzle, we gave the gulls another quick look on Seaton Common but again we couldn’t see anything of interest. There was a lone Brent Goose off Seaton Snook but no sign of the hoped for Snow Buntings. A Short-eared Owl was about the last decent bird we saw before heading home.

And on the way back we just about had enough time to pull in some Black Grouse. I first stumbled across this site a few years ago while driving my bus (you can see over walls in a bus!). Unfortunately the daylight had all but gone but we were impressed to see 14 males strolling around. Absolutely superb birds…

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One Response to 6th March 2013 – Mixed fortunes in Cleveland

  1. Carl Baggott says:

    Hi Darren,

    You and Col might have missed out on Caspian Gull, but it still looks like you had a good day. The RN Grebe is a smart looking chap. It such a shame we live so far apart as we trade gulls and geese.

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