Sorry to raise your hopes as the title is not intended to presage a feature on a new birding mega - it is rather to warn you that this is going to be a rather long post...a megablog.
So let's get on with it!
April 23rd: brief afternoon visit to a windy, cold North Cave. Wondering if I could somehow find Spring! Few birds seen. A coot was sitting on her nest. April 25th: nice to meet the Spavins up on Hasty Bank heading for the Wainstones on an unsuccessful hunt for an eagle owl. Great views and a few pipits but little else to report.
Looking north-east - Roseberry Topping in the distance. Middlesbrough - the transporter bridge and Riverside stadium in the haze. Saltholme beyond, between the two.
Much cropped; it was a long way away!
No sign of the 'defensive' eagle owl, alas.
April 26th: another cold, windy day, not at all spring-like. I went to Fairburn in the afternoon. A great crested grebe was battling the choppy waters of main lake. On to Lin Dike. Cuckooflower [ cardamine pratensis] in the car park.
April 27th: a bit more promising. I always like to photograph sedge warblers in spring when they are doing their display flights and singing prominently. Here they are at Dorman's Pool, Saltholme. Looking for breakfast?
Also seen: linnet, whitethroat and a smart looking pochard.
A wren from the top car park at Dorman's.
I headed for Bowesfield nature reserve at Stockton. All seemed quiet until I spotted a pair of great crested grebes starting to display...I think it warrants the award of:
You've probably seen pictures of the weed dance - here's a new variant: the rag dance. I hope Mrs Grebe was impressed!
A fine stand of cuckooflower nearby. I finished the day at South Gare on the beach watching the sanderlings. They were taking on their summer colours and looked really pretty.
Dunlin and ringed plover too. A wheatear flew in.
April 28th: Tophill Low to see a purple heron. Eventually located at Hempholme meadow.
April 30th: Wombwell & Broomhill Ings: Main target was a wood sandpiper at Wombwell Ings. Little gull appeared but fled to Broomhill. I followed. Woodsand first.
Redshank and wood sandpiper size comparison.
Little gull was very difficult to track with a 500mm lens. So tern-like as they shift direction, twisting and turning - I had to try to predict where it would turn up next.
May 1st: One of those very memorable birding days...
Druridge Pools for a glossy ibis. However before we look for the ibis, after the runaway success of my 'Spot the Black-necked Grebe' competition the team has decided to run a second competition: 'Spot the Little Owl.' Answer later. Also at Druridge: a black-necked grebe - distant and not as pristine as others seen this spring. A lesser-black: cruel and ultra-smart! I just failed to catch it swallow a frog in one gulp. The owl was on a nearby farm building.
I drove south calling at the big roundabout by Saltholme to scan for some reported whimbrel. Very distant, I did as Spock would do and 'gave it my best shot.' [Leonard Nimoy: 'The Voyage Home'] Final call was at Sutton Bank after closing time. Hoping for a turtle dove.
Siskin after bathing. Dig the punk hair-style!
Year tick number 4 that day:-
May 3rd: a quick trip to Swinefleet to see dotterel shimmering in a heat haze well out of range of even my big lens. Another 'best shot' was called for. Not very good but you can [just about] tell they're dotterel. 3 in this image. Megacropped!
May 8th: Crimdon Beach for my annual pilgrimage to see the little terns. As I drove off the main road I looked out for a patch of early purple orchids I'd seen previously. Thrilled to see it still there. I put the 100mm macro lens on. Tide was high and the terns were out fishing. They never came ashore but could be watched fishing out at sea. Unusual to see a tern having a scratch whilst in mid-flight!
Quality deteriorates a little but you can see the bird is ringed on the cropped version.
Ringed plover in the tern enclosure. A few flowers from Crimdon Dene. Green alkanet [I think] pentaglottis sempervirens Ramsons [allium ursinum] Whitethroat
196 UK 2018