So after a flutter of email and messages I picked up AR from a Metro station in a northern Newcastle suburb on a bright but blustery Thursday morning. We had had a brief chat about whether there was anything specific he was looking for on the pelagic Saturday as he had also been one of the passengers on that trip.
First stop was Mitford Castle, I figured if we didn't get any birds it wouldn't be too often he got to bird around a 12th century ruin. A small tit flock with Blue Tit & Great Tit also held at least one phyllosc but neither of us got a decent view. Two Nuthatch up on the surrounding bank side were distant but visible and a Common Buzzard soon got up and wheeled around our heads before banking away. Around the castle there were several birds in Hawthorn Spotted Flycatcher the pick of the bunch. A Dipper on the river offered AR better views than his life tick at Jesmond Dene some days earlier. 15 House Martin hawked over the grassland as we returned to the car, picking out Song Thrush on the wire and flyover Mistle Thrush as bonus birds.
Hulne Park our next stop was quiet although the single Nuthatch and Coal Tit at the gatehouse feeders offered good close views. Again a Common Buzzard mewing for all it was worth circled overhead.
A short stop at Fenham Mill produced Little Egret noted flying by AR as I was setting up the scope, c2000 Pale-bellied Brent Goose as well as his first views of Bar-tailed Godwit. Martin Kitching on a paid tour (some people get all the good jobs) arrived just before we left.
We apparently missed an Osprey near the causeway but despite intense searches on the way back we couldn't re-locate it, with two Common Stonechat our only reward. The Vicar's Garden produced a single Common Redstart, this and a flyover Northern Wheatear were the only migrants of note on the island. We did have a large pipit (sp) in the grass around the flooded fields but views were brief and very distant and the bird could not be relocated from closer with a flyby Kestrel adding to the flux.
In the region of 1000 Pink-footed Goose and 40-50 Barnacle Goose loitered in the fields north of Budle Bay with small groups arriving every few minutes. Budle Bay filled with Gulls offered little else. Purple Sandpiper and Rock Pipit along with some commoner seabirds provided more to see at Stag Rocks. It was mid afternoon by the time we arrived at Monk's House Pool, filled with Common Teal it also provided AR with closer views of several more Pink-footed Goose that were chilling around the far edge.
Possibly the best bird of the day, not a stone's throw from the Sexton mansion was an adult Peregrine picking apart whatever it had caught in a large field. In a scene reminiscent of an old Survival show it was quickly surrounded by marauding Crows which it held at bay by calling loudly at.
Afternoon Tea - Peregrine Style
Peregrine extending the hand of welcome to local corvids.
A couple of unsuccessful attempts at Little Owl and a Greenshank flushed from a channel on the Aln Estuary were the only other late afternoon birds of note. Not a classic day but perhaps much to do with the wind direction. I believe AR gets to do it all again with another local birder tomorrow.