The Birds of Sunderland Point (and other issues)

Working a local patch has added a lot of meaning to my birding:  To get to know the comings and goings of the seasons.  To be able to recognise whether a sighting is significant or not.  To learn new things about an area.

This came home to me a couple of years ago during an enforced couple of hours on Teesside.  I went to see someone else’s Glaucous Gull and then went down to the marshes.  There were some Gadwall and Ruddy Ducks and I found myself feeling rather bored, I had no idea of their significance.  I also realised, that had I seen them on my patch, that I would have been over the moon, as they would all have been ticks.

It was about this time that I started involving myself in WeBS surveys, CBC’s and visible migration watches.

WeBS is an excellent way to learn about the Bay’s wading birds.  Regular winter peak counts of up to 55,000 Knot make an unforgettable sight at Middleton high tide roost.  (Why do folks still visit Hest Bank?)   Other WeBS highlights have included Med Gulls, regular flocks of Twite and on one occasion a small passage of Manx Shearwaters.

My CBC plot has about 38 breeding species, up three from last year.  Linnet numbers are giving cause for concern nationally, but here they are common.  Currently there is a flock of about 120, mainly young birds roaming the point.  (But were did they all go last winter?)  Whilst out on the surveys one often comes across unexpected species:  A summer plumaged “Littoralis” Rock Pipit last spring, small flocks of White Wagtails or a recent Yellow Wagtail, a patch tick for me.

Autumn visible migration watches have revealed surprises and posed questions:  Where do the annual autumn flocks of Tree Sparrows come from?  Why do I always see Whooper Swan on the 28th of October?   Are counts of over one thousand Swallows per day to be expected every autumn?

Recent highlights have included a Little Egret (that I missed!) and up to nine Curlew Sandpipers, along with about 800 Redshank and up to a thousand Golden Plovers.  A regular Yellow-legged Gull has been visible distantly at Bazil Point.

A recent revelation has been the discovery that the “Bowie Pool” (a pond dug within the last couple years, in mitigation for environmental cost of the new sea defences) is now beginning to pull in some good waders and ducks.  Two Black-tailed Godwits during the August WeBS count pointed the way, but the finding of a Little Stint led to almost daily coverage by a small group of people.  Other recent birds here have included Ruff, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank and up to three Garganey.

This Pool is on private land, but viewing from the public footpath that leads north from Sunderland car park to Middleton, can access it legally.  Strictly speaking the sea wall is also private.  Birds are very easily flushed here and so you should use all available cover.

At the age of fourteen, my son started to teach himself to write Web Pages.  He then persuaded me that I should have a Web Page.  Out of this, “The Wildlife of Sunderland Point” was born.

I became “hooked” by the Internet bug and started to offer Birdwatching Trip Reports as a part of my pages.  People from far and wide have contributed reports, including at least three from the USA.  I am always happy to receive trip reports from people for any part of the world.  Many are from people on a family holiday who have managed to steal a few hours away to see some birds. If you can help please let me know. 

Some interesting statistics: my site is currently receiving about 1000 visitors per month and they come from over thirty different countries. I have received “hits” from both the US government and the US Military! 

If you would like to visit the address is:

Full details of how to contribute a report are contained within.

John Girdley.

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