As this week was half term we decided to travel North to Durham last weekend. As we are lazy it was after 7 o clock in the morning when we set off and arrived at Skinninggrove beach just South of Redcar, where an Eastern Black Redstart had been sighted.
As we got out of the car the strength of the wind nearly blew us across the car park. The rain was so hard it stung our faces. We had wrapped up so well we resembled a Michelin man and could barely move our limbs. We slowly wobbled our way to the beach. Everywhere there were pied wagtails and numerous Rock pipits. Several small birds kept popping out from behind the rocks and after concentrating on finding one that stayed still long enough we found a male Stonechat. A really handsome bird, once we had seen one stonechat we kept seeing more of them.
At the side of the beach, a number of small birds fluttered among the rocks. Some kind person had put down bird seed and it was not many minutes before the black redstart took advantage and perched up.
Dunnocks, robins and pied wagtails competed with the black redstart and yet more stonechats. Here is the big model of a boat.
In one corner there was a long concrete plinth with this picture on it I thought it was quite amusing. Especially considering one did not even have to breathe in the air merely opening the mouth was sufficient to obtain a lung full.
Shivering we returned to the car and continued on to the beach at Redcar, where we hoped to find snow buntings. The beach was deserted this could have been due to the cold wind. Visibility was obscured due to the tears springing spontaneously from our eyes.
Nevertheless, we are tough, so we struggled along the concrete path fighting the wind until we found several snow buntings crouching amongst the pebbles on the beach along with a few turnstones.
Having been blown back towards the car we found a small cafe and stopped for lunch at Northern prices so very reasonable. We took the decision to see if we could get red and black grouse. After all on a day full of driving rain and fierce winds, where would one chose to be but on the Durham moors? We drove for about an hour and finally started to climb up the steep road towards the moors. As the road grew steeper the rain turned to sleet and then to snow although it was not so heavy.
We drove along the road at a magnificent 20 miles and hour. We passed only two other vehicles daft enough to be out in that weather. As we drove along we found lots of red grouse among the roadside. We saw a couple of female black grouse. The snow grew heavier and the visibility was decreasing and with the road becoming treacherous we decided to head back off the moor. As we were coming off the moor we were treated to the sight of a male black grouse standing framed on a farm gate. We stopped to see if there were any dippers but they had all gone elsewhere and I for one do not blame them.
Saturday evening I was very ill with food poisoning I think so Sunday we got up slowly and Drove to Hartlepool Headland. I pottered along the front. The wind had increased overnight. Again tears sprang to my eyes. The wind had whipped the sea into lots of foam and this blew over the sea walls coating everything with foam so that the edge of the water appeared as if it had been coated with fairy liquid.
We found some eider on the sea and a shag flew past. Finally, we found some purple sandpipers cowering amongst the seaweed and rock pipits hid in the rocks. We found a curlew or two and some redshanks and yet more turnstones.
In the fish quay, red-breasted mergansers swam about and a red-throated diver fished.
We saw at least two seals who come up to take a look at us. I couldn’t stop shivering so we cut the time short and went to Saltholme RSPB. I was too ill to walk around the reserve but we did see some lovely wigeon, teal and shoveler from the main hide. They have a huge population of tree sparrows and numbers of goldfinches and greenfinches. As we drove away we found a large flock of Barnacle geese grazing in a field and a massive flock of golden plovers on the marsh.
I am sure there were more species that we missed but I was just too ill to enjoy it so we came home.