Sightings 2021

Welcome to my sightings page for 2021, where I aim to display a compilation of my birding and wildlife sightings and experiences from that year.  For up to date reports of sightings, please consider following me on my Facebook, Twitter and Flickr pages.

Covid19: My birding experiences during 2020 were disrupted with a full lockdown, followed by restrictions using a tiered system and 2021 started in full lockdown.  A roadmap to recovery was created and will hopefully go as planned.  Based on the guidelines, my own approach will be as follows (dates and guidelines may change at any time):

  • Step 1a (4th January) - Full lockdown with 'Stay at Home' advice given, so birding will mainly be done from home at Etherley Moor. Also weekly visits to Escomb and perhaps Bishops Park that are within walking distance from home.
  • Step 1b (8th March) - Schools and Colleges are allowed to return with 'Stay Local' advice given. Therefore, nothing will change for me.
  • Step 2 (29th March) - Non-essential services are allowed to return with 'Minimise Travel' given. I will be staying local, but may have the odd journey to sites in the county (if safe to do so).
  • Step 3 (12th April) - Can travel in England and Campsites open with 'Maintain Social Distancing' advice given. I will be staying local with the occasional journey to sites in the county. Will also go for any new birds or butterflies in England and/or Wales (if safe to do so).
  • Step 4 (17th May) - Can travel in England with Campsites open. I will be staying local with the occasional journey to sites in the county. Will also go for any new birds or butterflies in England, Wales or Scotland (if safe to do so).

January 2021

Picture: Dunnock at Escomb, 24th January 2021

1st to 3rd January, 2021 – Covid19 Tier 4, Etherley Moor
We started the new year in tier 4, which meant birding was restricted to Etherley Moor and being able to drive to local patches (socially distanced). By the 3rd January I had seen a total of 42 different species of birds.  Best included Kingfisher (1) and Dipper (1) at The Batts and Willow Tit (2) at Escomb.  Redwing (4), Fieldfare (20+), Greylag Geese (200+), Canada Goose (2) and Greenfinch (1) were amongst the usual birds at Etherley Moor.

4th to 10th January, 2021 – Covid19 (step 1a), Etherley Moor (step 1a)
Four days into 2021 and we found ourselves in full lockdown, which means birding is restricted to Etherley Moor and walking to local patches for exercise purposes (socially distanced).

Spent all week working from home with the only addition to the Etherley Moor list being Goldfinch (2).  A walk around Escomb on Sunday (10th) was very nice, seeing a few good birds and lifting my mood a little.  Tawny Owl (1), Nuthatch (1), Treecreeper (1), Teal (3 over), Kingfisher (1), Mistle Thrush (1), Song Thrush (4), Redwing (10+), Goldcrest (1) and Grey Wagtail (1) were the best birds seen during the 2hr walk.

11th to 17th January, 2021 – Covid19 (step 1a), Etherley Moor
Still in tier 5 (full lockdown), which is expected to be the case for at least 2-3 weeks. The week started well with a single Barn Owl seen hunting the back field from the bedroom window at 7:50am, Etherley Moor.  Other notable birds seen on Etherley Moor during the week included Fieldfare (1), Redwing (5), Song Thrush (1), Common Snipe (1 over), Greylag Goose (200+ 0ver), Mallard (12+ over), Long-tailed Tit (9), House Sparrow (20+), Tree Sparrow (4), Blackbird (4) and Robin (3).  So far, 37 different species have been seen by me on Etherley Moor since the start of the year/lockdown.

18th to 24th January, 2021 – Covid19 (step 1a), Etherley Moor
Still in tier 5 (full lockdown), which is now expected to go on to at least the beginning of March. Another good start to the week with Mallard (15 over), Linnet (6), Greenfinch (1) and Barn Owl (1 hunting the back field at dusk, 5pm).

25th to 31st January, 2021 – Covid19 (step 1a), Etherley Moor
Nice to see Greenfinch (6), Yellowhammer (1) and Fieldfare (5 in the garden) during the week. A Barn Owl is still being seen hunting the back field at dawn & dusk. Others have included Greylag Geese (80+ seen flying over most days), Cormorant (1 over), House Sparrow (10+), Tree Sparrow (4), Wren (1), Greenfinch (6), Goldfinch (2), etc.

February 2021

Picture: Woodpigeon at Etherley Moor, 1st February 2021

1st to 7th February, 2021 – Covid19 (step 1a), Etherley Moor
Still in tier 5 (full lockdown), which is now expected to go on to at least the beginning of March. So frustrating to hear of others still choosing to ignore the guidelines and travelling outside of their home town. I am following the guidelines like many others in the hope we can all start to get back to something like normality before April.

A cold and snow covered Etherley Moor this past week with a distant Common Buzzard and a flyover Cormorant being the best birds seen.  Feeding station is still busy with House Sparrow (10+), Tree Sparrow (4+), Chaffinch (4+), Great Tit (2), Blue Tit (2), Coal Tit (2), Long-tailed Tit (5+), Dunnock (2), Robin (1+), Blackbird (4+), Woodpigeon (3+) and Magpie (2+) visiting daily.

8th to 14th February, 2021 – Covid19 (step 1a), Etherley Moor
A week of snow and freezing temperatures reaching a low of -9 in the local area. Notable birds visiting the feeders during the week were Fieldfare (1), Song Thrush (1) and Collared Dove (1). Otherwise, it was the usual Woodpigeon, Blackbird, Tree Sparrow, House Sparrow, Dunnock, Robin, Wren, etc.

15th to 21st February, 2021 – Covid19 (step 1a), Etherley Moor & Escomb
The snow and freezing temperatures had began to thaw towards the end of the previous week and was as good as gone by tuesday. No new birds and other than a Song Thrush, there was nothing too unusual at etherley Moor.

Two visits to Escomb this week, one on Wednesday morning (ponds were still fully frozen) and the other on Sunday morning (ponds unfrozen). The visit on Sunday morning found the ponds unfrozen with water levels high. Mute Swan (1) and Tufted Duck (20+) were seen, 'two species of birds usually being seen on the first day of each year'. Other birds during the two visits to Escomb included Little Egret (1), Common Buzzard (3), Goosander (7), Jay (1), Siskin (15+), Bullfinch (10+), etc.

22nd to 28th February, 2021 – Covid19 (step 1a), Etherley Moor & Escomb
Notification we'll be coming out of full lockdown on the 8th March, which is at last something to look forward to. Signs of spring during the week with a Song Thrush singing during the mornings and Skylark singing daily. House Sparrow (6+), Tree Sparrow (4), Great Tit (2) and Blue Tit (2) looking in the the nest boxes.

Thirty seven different species were seen during a walk around Escomb on 27th.  Green Woodpecker (1 heard yaffling), Lesser Redpoll (5) and Reed Bunting (1) were firsts for the year.  Willow Tit (2), Redwing (10+), Common Buzzard (1) and Sparrowhawk (1) were nice to see.

March 2021

Picture: Stock Dove at Etherley Moor, 4th March 2021

1st to 7th March, 2021 – Covid19 (step 1a), Etherley Moor & Escomb
This is the last week of full lock down and although the tight restrictions will still be in place, I am very much looking forward to the prospect of being able to visit areas of interest outside of my town again.

The week on Etherley Moor started well with two Grey Partridges seen in the back field. Two new nest boxes were put up at the beginning of the week and immediately started to get visits from Great Tit (2), Blue Tit (2) and Robin (2).  Pairs of Greenfinch and Stock Dove visited the feeders later in the week.  Otherwise, Etherley Moor was business as usual. My weekly walk around Escomb was a bit colder than the previous week, but still managed to see 32 different species during the walk around the ponds.  Two new birds for the year were Oystercatcher (3 over) and Pied Wagtail (1).  Still no Coot or Goldeneye.

8th to 14th March, 2021 – Covid19 (step 1b), Etherley Moor & Escomb
This is the first week of the restrictions moving up one level, which should allow us to move around a little bit more freely within our town boundaries. However, the message is to still stay at home. If everyone follows the guidelines (some won't), then we will almost certainly be able to start moving around the county when we move up to the next tier on the date stated in the roadmap to recovery (29th March).

A Sparrowhawk visited the garden late in the week, which was a nice addition to the Etherley Moor lockdown list that now stands at 45.  Up to four Coots were back on the ponds at Escomb, which were new for the year.  Collared Dove was also added to the Escomb lockdown list, which is now 57. I have now seen 67 different species this year, which is at the very least 30-40 less than I would have normally seen by the end of January in a normal year. Finished the week by having my first vaccination.

15th to 21st March, 2021 – Covid19 (step 1b), Etherley Moor, The Batts & Escomb
Barn Owl (1), Grey Partridge (2) and Curlew (1 heard) were the best birds during the week at Etherley Moor. A ChiffChaff and my first butterfly of 2021 were at The Batts on 20th. 48 Whooper Swans were the highlight at Escomb on 21st when they were heard and then seen flying north. Other birds at Escomb included ChiffChaff (4-5), Grey Wagtail (2), Greenfinch (2), Mistle Thrush (2), Song Thrush (3-4 singing), Reed Bunting (1), Siskin (2), Goldfinch (1), etc.

22nd to 28th March, 2021 – Covid19 (step 1b), Etherley Moor, The Batts & Escomb
Nothing different this week at both sites.  Next week the restrictions will be lifted from stay at home to stay local. Nothing much will change for me, but some will take advantage and I can only hope people will behave themselves allowing the roadmap to recovery to stay as close to the timeline as possible.

April 2021

Picture: ChiffChaff at Escomb, 2nd April 2021

29th March to 4th April, 2021 – Covid19 (step 2), Etherley Moor, Escomb & The Batts
The week started on step 2 of the 'Covid Recovery' process, which meant we are now able to leave home for essential purposes. Despite the relaxation of the 'Stay at Home' rule and being able to travel for essentials, I am still staying local to help with Covid.  Nothing different at Etherley Moor this week, but did get Sand Martin (20+), Swallow (1), Curlew (2), Common Buzzard (1), ChiffChaff (3+), Willow Warbler (3+), Grey Heron (1), Willow Tit (2) and Barn Owl (1) during two visits to Escomb. A Lesser Black-backed Gull was seen at Etherley Moor before have a two hour walk round The Batts where Little Owl (1) Green Woodpecker (1 heard), Grey Wagtail (2), Pied Wagtail (1), Tree Sparrow (2), Dipper (1), Goosander (2), Grey Partridge (2), Yellowhammer (1) and Jay (1) were seen.

5th to 11th April, 2021 – Covid19 (step 2), Etherley Moor & Escomb
At least three male Blackcaps were at Escomb on the 6th with Sand Martin (50+) and Swallow (10+) over the two lakes.  ChiffChaff and Willow Warbler numbers increased during the week with at least six of each species heard on each of the three visits. Also Green Woodpecker heard yaffling on two of the visits. Visited the stretch of the river between The Batts and the Dam Head three times during the week with Lesser Black-backed Gull (2), Swallow (3), Grey Wagtail (2) and a pair of Blackcaps being the best birds seen.  Other than a very low flying Common Buzzard (just above our house), Etherley Moor was quiet.

12th to 18th April, 2021 – Covid19 (step 3), Etherley Moor, Escomb & The Batts
The week started on step 3 of the 'Covid Recovery' process. Despite having the opportunity of travelling longer distances I stayed local with a visit to Escomb and The Batts. 43 different species of birds were seen at Escomb on the Saturday (17th) with Common Sandpiper (2), Green Woodpecker (1 yaffling), Kingfisher (1) and Grey Wagtail (2) being nice to see. Common Redstart (1), Common Sandpiper (1), House Martin (1), Sand Martin (10+), Swallow (2+), Green Woodpecker (1+), Grey Wagtail (2), Pied Wagtail (1), Willow Warbler (2), ChiffChaff (8+), Blackcap (2), etc. were seen at The Batts and Bishops Park on Sunday (18th). Nothing new at Etherley Moor.

19th to 25th April, 2021 – Covid19 (step 3), Etherley Moor & Weardale
A Common Buzzard flew low over our Etherley Moor garden on Monday 19th. Holly Blue (1), Orange Tip (3+) and Small Tortoiseshell (2) butterflies were seen. Also Tawny Mining Bee (3+), Dark-edged Bee Fly (1), Yellow Dung Fly (3+), etc. A Wren was seen taking nesting material into the neighbours fascia towards the end of the week.

The weather looked good on Saturday 24th, so I decided to have a morning run out to Weardale.  This was my first time birding away from the patch for quite a while and thoroughly enjoyed the change of scenery.  Nice to see Ring Ouzel (3), Northern Wheatear (10+), Golden Plover (4+), Red Grouse (20+), Common Snipe (1 Roding), Red-legged Partridge (1), Grey Wagtail (2), Common Buzzard (2), etc.

26th April to 2nd May, 2021 – Covid19 (step 3), Etherley Moor, Teesside, Bishop Middleham & Escomb
I decided to take two days off work towards the end of the week in the hope of visiting some birding hotspots in a safe way.  Going to these locations during the working week certainly looks to be a good option as there weren't too many birders/photographers and was able to keep socially distanced.

29th (Teesside) - Twite (3), Stonechat (2), Skylark (2) and Meadow Pipit (1) were seen from Zinc Works Road. Hooded Crow and a leaucistic Herring Gull were with other Corvids and gulls at Hargreaves. Marsh Harrier (1), Avocet (4), Ringed Plover (1), Shoveller (2), Gadwall (10+), etc. were on Back Saltholme.

29th (Bishop Middleham) - 47 different species of birds seen including Swift (1), Yellow Wagtail (4+), Little Ringed Plover (4), Greenshank (2), Black-tailed Godwit (4), Common Redshank (1), Ruff (2), Great Crested Grebe (4+), Little Grebe (2+), Sand Martin (100+), Swallow (10+), Goldeneye (2), Wheatear (4), Common Buzzard (1), etc.

30th (Bishop Middleham) - 44 different species of birds seen n this second visit in two days with Pink-footed Goose (2) and Avocet (1) were an addition to birds seen on 29th.

30th (Escomb) - Only 23 different species seen during an afternoon visit. First Sedge Warbler of the year, two Swift and a Kingfisher on the River Wear were best birds.  Good numbers of hirundines during this visit with House Martin (3+), Swallow (6+) and Sand Martin (40+) seen.

1st May (The Batts) - Mandarin (4), Garden Warbler (2), Common Whitethroat (1) and Common Sandpiper (2) were amongst the usual birds to be found on the stretch of river from the viaduct to the Roman Fort.

2nd May (Escomb) - Reed Warbler (2), Sedge Warbler (1), Garden Warbler (3) and Common Whitethroat (1) were seen with the regulars during an early morning walk around the lake & ponds.  4-5 Orange Tips were also seen.

May 2021

Picture: Northern Mockingbird at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, 8th May 2021

3rd to 9th May, 2021 – Covid19 (step 3), Etherley Moor, Newbiggin & Escomb
Nothing new during the week on Etherley Moor, but decided to go for the Northern Mockingbird on Saturday (8th).  Excellent to see this bird that normally resides in North America, but also good to see most of the birders keeping socially distanced and behaving themselves. If reading this and you were there from 3-3:30pm, well done!  I also enjoyed a good 3-4hrs at Escomb on the Sunday with Reed Warbler (3), Sedge Warbler (2), Common Whitethroat (1), Garden Warbler (5+), Blackcap (4+), Willow Warbler (10+), ChiffChaff (only 2 heard), Common Sandpiper (2) and Swift (2) being the pick of the birds.

10th to 16th May, 2021 – Covid19 (step 3), Escomb & Teesside
Nothing different on Etherley Moor.  28 different species seen during a 2-3hr walk around Escomb covering some areas that I hadn't walked through for a while in the hope of picking up something different. Best during this visit was Swift (5+), Common Buzzard (2) and a single Grey Wagtail.  Finished off the week by visiting Teesside, but arrived just as the rain arrived. Best birds seen here included a drake Garganey, three Northern Wheatears and at least two Marsh Harriers.

17th to 23rd May, 2021 – Covid19 (step 3), Escomb, The Batts & Bishop Middleham
Etherley Moor and Escomb held there usual birds with nothing new seen or heard.  Enjoyed 15-20 minutes by the river at The Batts watching Mandarin (1 drake), Goosander (3 females), Dipper (1), Common Sandpiper (1), Swift (1) and Sand Martin (10+). A quick visit to Bishop Middleham on 23rd for a reported Spoonbill that was worthwhile, showing well on Castle Lake up to the time I left at 12:50.

24th to 30th May, 2021 – Covid19 (step 3), West Durham, Teesside, Knitsley Fell, Escomb & Etherley Moor
The two days I took off earlier in the month proved to be a good option, so I took another two days off at the end of this week visiting some birding sites during school time.

27th (Muggleswick, Waskerley & Weardale) - Wood Warbler (1), Pied Flycatcher (1), Spotted Flycatcher (1), Tree Pipit (1) and Cuckoo (1 heard) were best.  First Small Copper butterfly of the year at Waskerley.

28th (Teesside) - Little Tern (8+) and Common Tern (10+) at usual locations. Marsh Harrier (1), Lesser Whitethroat (1) and Spotted Flycatcher (1) at Dormans.

29th (Escomb) - Very quiet with no new birds seen.

30th (Knitsley Fell) - Only two Green Hairstreaks seen in perfect weather. No Tree Pipits.

31st May to 6th June, 2021 - Covid19 (step 3), Bishop Middleham
A Common Whitethroat has been singing in the field behind our house on Etherley Moor this week and at least one Grey Partridge has been calling most evenings. Wrens are feeding young in the neighbours garden. Highlight on home soil was the activity in our wildlife pond. A fresh Large Red Damselfly (5th) and Blue-tailed Damselfly (6th) were seen in our wildlife pond looking as though they had just emerged from the pond. A Common Newt (or palmate) showed itself very briefly in the pond and am hoping to get better views of it in the coming days/weeks.

31st (Bishop Middleham) - I decided to have a look for butterflies at Bishop Middleham Quarry on bank holiday monday and was pleased to find it very quiet with only one other person having a look around the reserve.  One Brown Argus, one Common Blue, three Wall Brown and at least ten Dingy Skippers were seen in the hour we were there.

5th (Escomb) - 27 different species of birds seen. A flock of Canada Geese (25-30) made a noisy appearance as they flew over the fishing lakes, a pair of Mute Swans was on the fishing lake with three cygnets and a female Goosander was on the river with five young. Dragonflies included Four-spotted Chaser (10+), Azure Damselfly (40+), Blue-tailed Damselfly (10+) and Common Blue Damselfly (20+). Orange Tip (20+), Small Copper (1) and Peacock (10) butterflies were seen. Best was a Bee Fly (my first for Escomb).

6th (Blyth) - Twitched a Red-necked Stint at Blyth, which showed very well at a distance (no opportunity of photographs for me). Ringed Plover (10+), Dunlin (6+), Redshank (2), Oystercatcher (6+), Curlew (6+), Common Tern (3+), Eider (4 adults with young), Shelduck (4), Gadwall (2), etc. were also seen.

7th to 13th June, 2021 - Covid19 (step 3), Somerset & Cornwall Twitch
Nothing different at Etherley Moor and Escomb this week. Was very pleased to go on my first long distance twitch for a couple of years finishing work on Tuesday lunchtime for the drive to RSPB Ham Wall for the reported River Warbler. The target bird showed well for the 60-90 minutes I was there, but just out of reach for decent photos. I then made the decision to go for Heath Fritillary and Large Blue butterflies, which were both seen after lengthy searches at two known sites for these rarities. Click here to read more.