Sightings 2024

Welcome to my sightings page for 2024, 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.

January 2024

Picture: Waxwing at Bishop Auckland, 1st January 2024

1st to 7th January, 2024 – (Bishop Middleham & Teesside)
Started the year being careful not to put too much stress on my feet, targeting birds that can easily be seen from or very close to the car. They are showing signs of getting better, so will hopefully be doing some decent patch work & birding soon.

With that in mind, I started the year with a quick visit to Bishop Middleham in the hope of seeing the wintering Hawfinch and was pleased to see it in the canopy of the hornbeams soon after arriving. Watched it for 10-15 minutes before a Sparrowhawk flew in and flushed/chased it out of view. On the way home, I spent a bit of time looking for the reported Waxwings near Metal Bridge with no joy. However, I did see a single Waxwing at the bottom of Bracks Road in Bishop Auckland before seeing a further 50-60 at the top of the same road.

The second day of the year I headed towards the headland seeing Great Northern Diver (1), Red-throated Diver (7+), Slavonian Grebe (1), Great Crested Grebe (1), Velvet Scoter (1), Common Scoter (100+), Purple Sandpiper (10+), Rock Pipit (2), etc! No sign of the reported Black-throated Diver at Jacksons Landing before heading off to see three Bewick's Swans at Lambton Pond.

I finished the week with a quick visit for a reported Baikal Teal at Bishop Middleham, which was a first for County Durham. I then made my way to the area of Saltholme seeing Spoonbill (1), Great White Egret (1), Cattle Egret (4), Little Egret (5+) and Mediterranean Gull (1).

8th to 14th January, 2024 – (Patch, Teesside & The Dales)
Managed to see a doctor at the beginning of this week who sounded as though she knew exactly what the problem of my feet is and how to treat it, 'palmoplantar keratoderma'.  By the end of the week my feet were feeling much better, so will hopefully be walking properly again soon.

A Tawny Owl was heard calling (Thursday, 11th) and a Barn Owl was seen the following morning (Friday, 12th), on Etherley Moor. A drake Long-tailed Duck was seen at RSPB Saltholme on Saturday with Great White Egret (1 at Cowpen Marsh) and Cattle Egret (4 on the Pipeline adjacent to Saltholme) still in the area. Common Buzzard (6+), Black Grouse (16+), Red Grouse (10+) and Grey Partridge were the best birds seen during a visit to upper Weardale/Teesdale on Sunday.

15th to 21st January, 2024 – (Teesside)
My feet had been feeling much better, but had a relapse on Thursday when several cracks appeared, which made me decide to have a quiet weekend.

22nd to 28th January, 2024 – (Newbiggin & The Patch)
Feeling much better towards the end of the week, so made the decision to go and see the long staying Shorelarks at Newbiggin on Saturday 27th with at least thirty Twite in the same location. A Whooper Swan was seen at QE2 Country Park, before visiting a very quiet Cresswell (no sign of the reported Hooded Crow). Marsh Harrier (1), Common Buzzard (5) and Peregrine (1) were at Widdridge. No joy with the Snow Buntings at Howick.

Eighteen different species of birds seen during the hour garden birdwatch at home (Etherley Moor) on Sunday with Tree Sparrow (1), House Sparrow (14), Great Tit (2), Coal Tit (2), Blue Tit (2), etc. being seen. Nothing too different at Low Barns later on Sunday.

February 2024

Picture: Hooded Crow at Helmscott Hill, 17th February 2024

29th January to 4th February, 2024 – (Northumberland & The Patch)
On saturday (3rd), I decided to head up to Northumberland to see the birds I missed out on last weekend. The female Scaup was easily seen at Swallow Pond. I then headed to St Mary's Island for the Water Pipit which was much harder to pin down, but eventually seen with Meadow Pipit (5+) after about an hour searching.  The redhead Smew as QE2 Counry Park was seen very quickly (Whooper Swan also seen with Mute Swans waiting to be fed). Dipped the Hooded Crow near Cresswell, but did see Twite (50+), Grey Partridge (3), Red-legged Partridge (2) and Pink-footed Goose (150+) before heading to a nearby site for Hen Harrier, where I got good (distant) views of a male before I needed to herad off home.

On sunday I checked the Etherley Moor part of my patch for Snipe finding singles of both common and jack. The Common Snipe was accidentally flushed before I started searching with the thermal. Jack Snipe was much harder to find with only one seen in a 40-50 minute search.

5th to 11th February, 2024 – (Teesside)
Two visits to Teesside over the weekend with Spoonbill (1), Spotted Redshank (1), Greenshank (1), Grey Plover (7+), Common Buzzard (1), Barn Owl (2), Short-eared Owl (1), etc. being seen in the area of Cowpen Marsh and Seal Sands. Goosander (2) and Ring-necked Parakeet (7+) were at Ward Jacksons Park.

12th to 18th February, 2024 – (North Yorkshire & Northumberland)
Had Friday off work so I decided to head over to North Yorkshire with all target birds seen. First stop was South Gare where at least 25 very mobile Snow Buntings were seen. Next was Lockwood Beck Reservoir seeing Brambling (5+), Siskin (3+), etc. were seen on the feeding station. A Rough-legged Buzzard was seen with two Common Buzzards 1-2 miles away from where they were last reported at Rosedale Common. A Barn Owl was seen hunting the common whilst watching for raptors. Sadly, no more were seen. Lockwood Beck was quiet.

We decided to have a night away in northumberland on saturday, taking a slow drive up to Lindisfarne Inn near Holy Island. Red-throated Diver (1 juvenile), Smew (1 redhead) & Whooper Swan (1) were at QE2 Country Park. The long staying Hooded Crow was seen at Hemscott Hill near Cresswell and the Red-breasted Goose was seen with Brent Geese & Barnacle Geese at Budle Bay. Also two Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

At least thirty Brent Geese were seen on the causeway as we were driving to holy island where we enjoyed watching Fulmars (30+), Purple Sandpiper (3+), Turnstone (20+), etc. before having a coffee at Beal and heading for an unsuccessful attempt at seeing the Iceland Gull that had been reported at North Shields Fish Quay.

19th to 25th February, 2024 – (Hurworth Burn, Pow Hill & Rookhope)
At least three White-fronted Geese were with Pink-footed Geese (30+), Greylag Geese (5+) & Canada Geese (5+) at Hurworth Burn on saturday. A Long-eared Owl was also seen. At least two Crossbills were at Pow Hill CP on Sunday with thirty six Whooper Swans on the reservoir. Approximately fifty Black Grouse were seen near Rookhope.

March 2024

Picture: Short-eared Owl in Upper Teesdale, 23rd March 2024

26th February to 3rd March, 2024 – (Bishop Middleham & Teesside)
Visited Bishop Middleham twice at the end of the week with the aim of seeing Ruddy Shelduck. No joy with the Shelducks, but did enjoy the two visits seeing a good selection of common wildfowl. On sunday, a single Waxwing was at Saltholme car park and a Great White Egret was opposite the entrance to the reserve. No sign of the reported Egyption Geese on Cowpen Marsh.

4th to 10th March, 2024 – (Teesside)
Quick visit to Teesside on saturday before the bad weather arrived with the best birds being 20-30 Avocets on Back Saltholme and a Marsh Harrier over Cowpen Marsh. Also at Cowpen Marsh was a single Spoonbill that was first seen spooning on the flood opposite the sub-station and then later by the pipeline.

11th to 17th March, 2024 – (Train & Patch)
Went to Birmingham for a conference and managed to see two Red Kites north of York when returning home on Wednesday. Common Buzzard (2), Kestrel (1), ChiffChaff (5+), Dipper (1) & Goldcrest (1) were the best birds out of 38 different species seen at Escomb on Saturday. Skylark and Common Buzzard were best at Etherley Moor.

18th to 24th March, 2024 – (Nosterfield, the Dales & the Patch)
On saturday I made the short trip down the A1 to see if I could connect with the Green-winged Teal that had been reported two days earlier. No joy with the target bird, but I did see Red Kite (1), Pintail (2), Ruff (3), Black-tailed Godwit (15+), ChiffChaff (3+) and my first three Sand Martins of the year. Decided to return home with a drive through the dales seeing some good birds between showers. Grey Partridge (2), White Wagtail (1), Common Redshank (3+), Curlew (30+), Oystercatcher (20+) and Fieldfare (75+) were the best birds in South Durham. Black Grouse (38+), Red Grouse (1), Common Buzzard (1), Short-eared Owl (3) and Kestrel (2) were seen in Upper Teesdale. Black Grouse (21+), Sparrowhawk (1) and Kestrel (3) were seen in Upper Weardale.

Had a look around Escomb and The Batts on Sunday. Good to see Oystercatcher (2), Little Grebe (1), Little Egret (2) and Goldeneye (2) at Escomb. Decent numbers of ChiffChaff (15+) back on patch with the best bird arguably a single Lesser Black-backed Gull over the river wear at The Batts. First butterflies of the year were seen with a Small Tortoiseshell seen at Shildon and a Comma at Escomb.

25th to 31st March, 2024 – (The Patch)
Spent most of friday, saturday & sunday working the patch. Great Crested Grebe (1), Common Buzzard (1) and Lesser Black-backed Gull (1) were at Escomb. First Blackcap of the year and at least five Common Buzzard were seen at The Batts. Cattle Egret (1), Little Egret (2), Shoveller (10+), Lesser Black-backed Gull (5), Tree Sparrow (5+), ChiffChaff (15+), Willow Warbler (1), Blackcap (3), Long-tailed Tit (2 nest building), Wren (10+ with 2 nest building) and Treecreeper (1 nest building) were at Low Barns. Canada Goose (2 over), Barn Owl (1 on our garden fence), Common Buzzard (2) and ChiffChaff (1) were at Etherley Moor. The Cattle Egret at Low Barns was a site and patch first for me.

April 2024

Picture: Dark-eyed Junco at Hartlepool, 24th April 2024

1st to 7th April, 2024 – (Patch, Dales & Loch Leven)
Good start to the easter holidays managing to get out nearly every day visiting Low Barns, Escomb, The Batts, Weardale, Teesdale and a 1-day twitch to Loch Leven in Perthshire. Two drake Mandarin, a singing Willow Warbler and a probable Yellow Wagtail were best birds at Escomb. A Moorhen was heard flying over our house (Etherley Moor) at 1am on Sunday 7th. Common Buzzard (6 in the air together), Lesser Black-backed Gull (7+), ChiffChaff (30+) and Blackcap (5+) were also seen across the patch. Short-eared Owl (1) and Black Grouse (19) were in Upper Teesdale. Short-eared Owl (5+), Black Grouse (15+), Red Kite (1), Ring Ouzel (2 pairs) and Northern Wheatear (5) were seen in Upper Weardale. Twitched a drake Bufflehead at Loch Leven on saturday, which was the only decent bird on the reserve in very windy conditions.

8th to 14th April, 2024 – (Patch)
Spent most of the second week of the easter holidays checking the patch with an adult female Common Scoter at Escomb being the best bird seen. Other interesting birds at Escomb during the week included Great-crested Grebe (2), Mandarin (1), Marsh Tit (1), Swallow (2) and Sand Martin (20+). Siskin (2) were on our home feeders most of the week. Green Woodpecker (2 displaying to each other) were in Bishops Park. Plenty of Chiffchaff (20+), Willow Warbler (20+) and Blackcap (10+) across all sites.

15th to 21st April, 2024 – (Patch)
A Common Redstart was heard and seen at Wolsingham Showground when we visited the antiques fair that morning.  Spent four hours at escomb on sunday morning with  Great-crested Grebe (4), Lesser Whitethroat (1) and Reed Warbler (1) being the best out of 46 different species of birds seen. Butterflies included Peacock (10+), Small Tortoiseshell (1), Orange Tip (1) and Speckled Wood (1).

22nd to 28st April, 2024 – (Teesside & the Patch)
Visited Hartlepool for the reported Dark-eyed Junco on wednesday afternoon getting 2-3 decent views in the 3-4 hours I was there. Very nice to get a new bird so close to home and to have a good catch up with friends that I hadn't seen for a while.  At least three Cetti's Warblers were heard at RSPB Saltholme and two Egyption Geese were on Cowpen Marsh on Friday afternoon. A cuckoo was heard calling near Kinninvie early saturday morning.  Stopped off at Escomb for a couple of hours later that morning with Garden Warbler (1), Common Whitethroat (2), Reed Warbler (1), Mandarin (1), Meadow Pipit (1), Lesser Black-backed Gull (1), House Martin (3) and Great Crested Grebe being the best birds seen. Three drake Mandarin were on the river wear downstream of Bishop Auckland Rugby Club on sunday morning.

May 2024

Picture: Grasshopper Warbler at Blackhall Rocks, 3rd May 2024

29th April to 5th May, 2024 – (Teesside, Muggleswick & Bishops Park)
On Friday afternoon I visited Blackhall Rocks for Grasshopper Warbler (2+ seen) and then returned home via Seaton Carew and Tees Marshes seeing Little Tern (1), Garganey (1), Egyption Geese (3) and Spoonbill (1). Mandarin (1 drake), Red Kite (1), Pied Flycatcher (6) and Wood Warbler (1) were seen at Muggleswick on Saturday. At least three Common Redstart and a Green Woodpecker were at Bishops Park on Sunday.

6th to 12th May, 2024 – (Escomb, Kinninvie & Etherley Moor)
Had a 2-3hr walk around Escomb on the first day of the week (bank holiday) seeing 40 different species of birds. Best out of these included Common Sandpiper (2), Sedge Warbler (1), Reed Warbler (2), Garden Warbler (4), Common Whitethroat (2), Sand Martin (50+) and Great Crested Grebe (2). Orange Tip (20+), Peacock (4) and Speckled Wood (1) were the butterflies seen. A Red Kite and a Common Redstart were seen near Kinninvie on saturday. Little Owl (1), Tawny Owl (1), Sparrowhawk (1), Skylark (1), Tree Sparrow (2 feeding young) and Greenfinch (1) were the best birds seen at Etherley Moor from Friday to Sunday.

13th to 19th May, 2024 – (Patch, Whitburn & Teesside)
On saturday I had stopped for some lunch on the way to RSPB Saltholme when I got the report of an Indigo Bunting in Whitburn and quickly changed my plans to head north. On arrival, I was relieved to hear the finder was letting people into his kitchen to view the feeders with the bird being seen about 1hr later with about thirty other birders. A first for County Durham and the third for the UK. A female Red-backed Shrike was seen at Horden on the return journey. On sunday I visited RSPB Saltholme with Red-breasted Goose (1), Temminck's Stint (2), Avocet (20+), Little Ringed Plover (2), Swift (20+), Common Tern (20+), etc. being seen during the two hours I was there. Two Little Owls were heard (one seen) in the field at the back of our Etherley Moor garden throughout the week.

20th to 26th May, 2024 – (Patch)
Had amazing views of Barn Owl at Escomb on Thursday evening. Visited Howdon Wetland NR for my first Rustic Bunting the following afternoon (showed 20-30 minutes before the gates were due to be locked). Great Crested Grebe (2 with young), Common Sandpiper (2), Sparrowhawk (1), Swift (5) and House Martin (7) were the best out of 38 different species at Escomb on saturday (first time in twenty years I've witnessed Great Crested Grebe nest and then successfully have young at this site). Little Owl still calling in the field at the back of our Etherley Moor garden throughout the week.

27th May to 2nd June, 2024 – (Weardale & Hurworth Burn)
Two Spotted Flycatchers and a single Grey Wagtail were the best birds seen during a quick visit to Stanhope on Wednesday. Had good views of Osprey at Hurworth Burn Reservoir on Thursday (wrong settings on the camera spoilt the moment where photography was concerned). Little Owl still calling in the field at the back of our Etherley Moor garden throughout the week. Great Crested Grebe family at Escomb appear to be doing well. Missed the opportunity to see Blyth's Reed Warbler and Icterine Warbler at Hendon during the week, both of which would have been county firsts for me. Also missed the opportuntiy to go for a Bluethroat at the same location, Garganey and Whinchat at Saltholme.

3rd to 9th June, 2024 – (Patch)
Due to work commitments I had a very quiet week. Best inluded Common Sandpiper (1), Grey Wagtail (1), Sand Martin (5+), Swallow (10+), Swift (1) and Common Buzzard (1) at The Batts. Also had at least three Swift and two Common Buzzard over Etherley Moor.