Today I went to South Shields with the intention of remaining rooted to Sandhaven Beach until I saw a Roseate Tern. I had been advised to arrive after the start of the dog curfew at 8:30, but before the invasion by the local populous.
I suspect the committee that agreed to block access from Sandhaven car park to the beach with metal fences, without any indication as to how visitors are supposed to get to the beach, has also spent time deliberating the gradual demise of the British holiday resort. Time to put two and two together methinks. The pier car park, however, is equally bereft of any indication of how to reach the beach.
Having found Sandhaven Beach by 8:30, I moved in slowly towards a small group of terns and by 8:45 I had found my first Rosie. I was then joined by a guy from Darlington who was my Rosie tutor for the next half hour, explaining the differences between juvenile Rosies and Common Tern and alerting me to their call. He picked out 16 Rosies and I was satisfied that I could identify 10. A good start to the day.
Just as I was planning to leave, a bird dropped quickly, landing about 5 metres away. A rather startled Knot gave me a quick stare and shot off stage right. A commotion overhead alerted me to the reason for the near crash landing, a Sprawk was being mobbed by a Common Tern. The Tern harried the Sprawk until they reached a fair altitude and the Tern decided it was battle won.
I then decided to have a look at Shibdon Pond. My Rosie tutor had seen the Spotted Crake at around 8:00 today and assured me that I would not need a detour to Thornley for a key. I found the hide locked and, resigned to peering across the pond from elsewhere, I set of to find a suitable spot, but soon came across a young man equipped with a key.
We were joined by another Spotty seeker and we spent about half an hour scouring the reeds. Four Little Egrets, a Greenshank, several Herons and Common Terns, a shed load of Moorhens and a miscellany of ducks provided the entertainment as we searched. I then saw our quarry as it sauntered from a patch of reeds, pecked at the mud and sauntered back again, tail flicking occasionally. And that was that.
I decided to spend the afternoon around Cresswell. Not much happening out to sea; a few Gannets passing, five Guillemots at rest and a smattering of Common and Sandwich Terns. So off to Cresswell Pond. Knowing that the water level was high, I headed for the north end,where several waders were gathered. This proved to be a good choice, although a strengthening wind made observation difficult.
The waders were very active, making an accurate count a challenge. The final tally was at least 1 Spotshank, 2 Greenshanks, 5 Redshanks, 6 Ruffs and 2 Reeves, 11 Dunlins and 1 Ringed Plover. A very pale Dunlin sized wader remained immobile in the far corner, showing only a back end with head under wing. A bit early for a winter plumage Sanderling?
So a new bird and a sighting of one only heard from thick reeds in Sweden over 30 years ago. A brilliant day's birding.