Birding round Durham & Sunderland 2012

Birdwatching in & around Houghton-le-Spring, Sunderland, County Durham.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Half Marathon - Jack Snipe Alopecia

Despite living only a street apart, Mick @houghtonbirder & I @stevie_evans1
don't team up as often as we ought.

🚶🏻When we do, we rarely fail.

We decided on a spot of Birdwatching or "Bird-Walking" as it is known round these parts.🚶

We had a decent start, within a mile :-
2 Kingfisher, 3-4 Green Sandpiper, f Goosander, f Brambling

We popped into 'The Freezer' at Rainton Meadows, where the sun shone on a displaying pair of GCGrebes, the light was so clean & bright - one of those mornings that you really appreciate every bird you look at - be it the red-eye Coot or the flick-winged Dunnock
We could have very easily spent the remainder of the morning there, but moved on before we became too comfortable.

Wetlands & woodlands with singing Chaffinch & Reed Bunt made way for farmland & the Larks sang above as we added some miles.
A sheltered country stile nestled between Gorse and thorn showed little signs of use, although it was easy to picture a Barn Owl post hunting there, after seeing its pellet & splash.

It just so happened that our route skirted by a likely spot for a Snipe or two.....
Well it would be rude not to have a look....
We managed a right eyeful of a Jack Snipe

Initial views after 2 of its mates had fliggied off

Needle in a Haystack....

There it's


Micks camera - the bird showed superbly against dark vegetation.

To be fair, had we ( well had I ) been more careful we probably could have had 3 sitting together....
One for another day.... anyways Jacks weren't the target today.
We had a Spring in our step after that encounter & strode on as Grey Partridge pairs called and chased & a Water Rail announced its presence, but remained unseen in a ditch.

It was Buntings we were after - a welcome sight was a flock of 60Reed & 70Yellow - a good look through them failed to reveal their larger cousin though the field is now past its best.

A rough area at the bottom of the field looked interesting & we hit on lucky with a cautious approach &  Jack Snipe






Bit of a shit picture...

Its not clear at which point Michael suffered his Jack Snipe Alopecia - but the evidence is plain to see.

A careful scan revealed a second bird 10' away, our SIXTH of the day we must walk past hundreds of these....


By now a pattern was developing & all birds without long beaks were ignored.

I took the opportunity to knock on at a large country house to ask permission to walk another marsh for Jack Snipe.  Consent was granted although we failed to turn up the goods, though some small consolation in 2 invites to quote for tree-work at the property.

With so much time wasted on Jacks the day was beginning to slip away.

There was no clear route home planned - the general view is go bird-walking & after it gets dark then make a return journey.

This was an easy stroll - after all there were NO hills.... except the large one through a ploughed field.
After losing & finding the path a few times we made it to a quiet little spot, a Buzzard slipped away from us,  just as the farmer & his noisy topper was knocking off for the day.

The light was fading & there was a very good chance of Little Owl, which we added.
I was watching a male Kestrel roosting, when hawk eye put me onto a Barn Owl flying by a close range ! Wow decent light & a nice surprise, only to have a Tawny Owl appear silhouetted in the tree tops. Three owls without moving a foot.

A great way to end our day - well apart from walking back cross country 6mile in the dark.
Torches helped at times on the return & we were full of craic after such a good day out.

A Moorhen went over giving its territorial flight call & Mick spotted a Pipistrelle Bat in zero visibility, which then fluttered right past my face. No further owls on what turned into a damp dull evening


So there you have it , our inaugural Jack Snipe Tour  :-
12 hours
a half marathon
35,000 steps
75 species of birds including 6 Jack Snipe, 3 on the deck.

A Great day out.




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