It was easy to tell it was October as the grumbling of many birders became louder as days of west/south-west winds offered little quality (at least on the mainland). Despite the apparent poor state of affairs I’m not going to complain, I continue to do most of my birding within a few clicks of the front door and take what comes.
The first few days of the month must have been busy as the first bird I recorded was a garden Chiffchaff six days into the month. A visit to Widdrington Moor Lake on 7th produced 4 Marsh Harriers (1 male and 3 cream-crowned individuals) causing mayhem on the north side. Later that morning whilst failing to catch up with Mark Eaton’s fabulous drake Surf Scoter at Birling Carrs over 330 Pink-footed Geese I noted in skeins up to 100 strong, their approaching calls drifting on the wind as they ‘winked’ their way south.
Having spent the next night in Sedgefield I had a short early morning walk at nearby Hurworth Burn Reservoir and discovered that there was a feral goose conference in progress with some 1200 Greylags, 200 Canada Geese and 100 wild Pink-feet just for good measure, frightening!
Another Great Shearwater was noted moving north at Whitburn on the morning of 12th around 08:25. With the school run to do I opted for a safe option of going to Snab Point where I could literally fall out the car and avoid the ignomony of arriving puffing and panting at Newbiggin to be told “You’ve missed it by three minutes” which has happened before. As it happens this particular individual was apparently in no particular hurry and ambled past Snab at mid-distance at 11:12. An uneventful post-shearwater romp around the Moor at Newbiggin through up a Willow Tit (two more were in my garden the following day).
A brief post-work snatched visit to Bothal Pond on 18th produced a count of 45 Gadwall. The following morning two Mediterranean Gulls (adult and 1st-winter) were in the paddocks at Blue Sky Stables. Another adult was offshore at Newbiggin where a Ring Ouzel was the highlight of an otherwise quiet circuit. Several Bramblings were also in evidence including one sat on the rocks off the beach looking, well, knackered.
Another short visit to Bothal Pond on 21st through up a good candidate for monedula race Jackdaw in the horse paddocks. Recent years have highlighted that some British race spermologus clearly can and do show collars after wear but by mid-October Jackdaws should be in fairly freshly moulted plumage as they moult end June to September and so in theory should not be worn, add to that the fairly extensive collar on this one and it may well have been a migrant. Not seen since.
Two hours seawatching on 22nd yielded a decent return, a White-billed Diver flew north, two Great Northern Divers moved past, six Whooper Swans flew south plus a single Little Gull and two Mediterranean Gulls were seen.
Again over night in Sedgefield on 23rd I headed back home the following day via Hartlepool Headland where I caught up with the Arctic Warbler that was on a bit of an extended stay in the square in front of the council offices. This mini-twitch was only slightly marred by the woman loudly and frequently asking “Bob” if he could see the bird, I left uncertain as to whether Bob was hard of hearing (like myself) or just blissfully unaware of the loud repetitive calls to his rear as he gazed at the magnificience of the phyllosc in the squircle and contemplated it’s journey that had reached it’s presumed end in Hartlepool.