Far to the south beyond the land of Mack-em lies a mythical creek. Shrouded in choking mists, the air filled with fire and steam the Greatham Creek runs in the midst of a vast marsh. Many have perished searching for the creek, those few hardy souls that have survived return with tales of strange calls from mermaids living in the creek that appear when the tide rises to capture the souls of men and take them far away beyond the seal sands, lost forever over the horizon to the east.
The prophecy written by the bird guides, those that know all and see all, tells that beyond the creek lies the home of salt and that shall come an eclipse and in the eclipse shall come a dragon or drake with blue wings and men from the north and west shall search for the dragon to gaze upon its beauty. Many shall come and many shall fail for the challenge is great, the distance measured in days journey and the false paths legion. My sons and daughter shall we search for the dragon, are we brave of heart and stout of foot?
Look, what was the alternative? Listen kids we're going to have a hundred mile round trip to visit a huge industrial wasteland, walk twice as far as you want to and see a duck that you think looks like every other small brown duck for 40 seconds. After that we'll park by a busy road downwind of the landfill to search for a wader that hasn't been seen all day before nipping up the road to the coast to jostle with teenagers on bikes who think they're part of some nationwide underground movement because they messed up the magazines and stole a mars bar at the local Co-op?
It wasn't going to work was it, so I bent the truth created an adventure turned the fire from Petroplus or whatever into a dragon perched on a steel tower. That and the promise of some RSPB furry birds that you can stick your finger up did the trick, bought me enough time and effort to walk from the Saltholme car park west to Bishop Auckland; OK maybe not quite that far, but about as far as you can go at Saltholme to be underwhelmed by an eclipse drake Blue-winged Teal. I should have known, stuck by the theory if it doesn't come from above the Arctic Circle it's probably not worth it. I was probably more pleased to see Toby Collett than the duck after he appeared behind me as quietly and instantly as Mr Benn. A Wood Sandpiper found on Pat's Pool was far sexier than the BWT.
We did spend a few minutes hanging around Greatham Creek but it's hardly the place to let your kids loose by the side of the road so we passed on any opportunity to re-find Wilson and headed north to Seaburn to have a little wander about the promenade at Parson's Rocks and look for the adult Bonaparte's Gull. A scan from the cliff top produced nothing but Black-headed so we dropped onto the prom, the north bay seemed to be mainly Herring Gulls with the odd GBB so we headed back to the south side but lower down. The kids were having fun finding ladybirds and two birders looking intently at the shore and the small flock of gulls feeding on the lapping waves looked familiar and had I discovered just picked up the Bonaparte's. A pleasant ten minutes with good views before we braved the tunnel back north.
Kids highlight of the day, the tame Fox in Saltholme car park that strolled past them 5m away as cool as cucumber, the incredulous look on their faces was a picture. Another summer holiday success!