Let's begin at the very beginning. I drove straight to Hartlepool Headland via the A19 and A689 and parked up by the Croft. A birder told me a yellow-browed was showing round the corner. It was. Here it is! The photos may give the impression the bird posed for me: I was amazed that the photos are as acceptable as they are as the bird was deep inside the bush, the light was poor and the bird moved around tirelessly.
From there I drove to Blackhall Rocks hoping for whinchat. I saw stonechat - second best, I suppose.
Common toadflax linaria vulgaris was plentiful and flowering well on the clifftop.
Cormorants were fishing close in.
Newburn Bridge was quiet - just oyks and black-headed gulls. After a few minutes a group of turnstones landed on the stub end of the quay and one bird went for a wash in a puddle.
A great white egret was reported from the Greatham Creek/Seal Sands 'ugly screen' [not my name for it] but I could only spot 3 or 4 little whites. A common seal was basking nearby.
From there I headed to Saltholme to play at 'Toggers and Wizards.' There were quite a few Toggers at their seats but no sign at first of the Wizard. Patience is an essential virtue for all birders... While we waited there were black-tailed godwits to watch.
A mute swan flew over: funny thing about the mute bit is that mute swans are unmistakably noisy in flight. Even if you can't yet see them, you know exactly what is coming. Thump, thump, thump...
Sir Columbarius appeared distantly but eventually put on a magnificent display of tricks and aerial displays...
The merlin doesn't eat the dragonfly's wings: they can be seen being kicked off the post in the next photo.
In the distance a sparrowhawk was watching...
The merlin took no notice and the group of black-tailed godwits were not worried by the merlin. However the sparrowhawk was very interested in the godwits and suddenly launched a blistering attack. The godwits all left - hurriedly. The sparrowhawk failed to catch a meal and paused on a post to reflect on life, hope and failure.
Meanwhile the merlin carried on and a few godwits returned. The merlin can be seen carrying a dragonfly.
I'll finish with some aerial shots that are a fitting end to the memorable encounter. Definitely worth going back for, Mr. A!