Let's begin at South Shields pier...
24th January: They weren't hard to spot. The tricky bit was finding a good place to lie low and wait for the birds to come close. I knew they would.
The guy lying up against the wall [it's not me, by the way!] got lucky. He'd been watching the birds when they were nearer the waterline when they all flew up next to him. Not a case of a' togger' getting too close -rather the other way round!
Low Force first attempt for the red-flanked bluetail. No luck.
I wasted some time when I first arrived at Bowlees by taking the wrong path. However this moss covered wall took my eye.
27th January: Low Force again! No sighting again! Anyway, here's the waterfall!
Sadly I never saw the red-flanked bluetail that is overwintering there.
The red-flanked story gets worse as you will find later...
27th January: a day at various sites but little to report. A treecreeper obliged at Hardwick Park outside Sedgefield...
...as did a bullfinch and blue tit at Cowpen Bewley. Light was poor and getting a pin-sharp focus was a challenge.
6th February: Hartlepool for the red-necked grebe. Ever-changing lighting conditions.
7th February: Scarborough, Hilla Green, Seamer Pools and Bempton. The well-known haunt of Mediterranean gulls at Holbeck Cliff car park was my first call. A few 'med' gulls around. I photographed two of them on the grass. They always look like they're 'in charge' as far as any poor old black-headed gulls are concerned.
'Dipper Bridge' as the late Nigel Stewart called it, on the River Derwent at Hilla Green has always been a good place for a short walk along the river.
Bempton Cliffs same day - an afternoon visit to see the newly returned gannets.
Pipit - rock I reckon.
Stonechats are very reliable in the grassy area near the Visitor Centre.
10th February: Hartlepool for a black redstart that really gave us the run-around. Photographed through fine gauge fencing panels, the definition quality is not bad when I consider the lens was pressed up against the fence.
11th February: Wykeham raptor watchpoint for goshawks. Several seen through the scope plus red-legged partridges on the way up at North Moor. Then I headed west back to Bowlees for the third time. For a third total failure! The consolation prize was 5 black grouse at nearby Langdon Beck. Always distant but very good to see.
[87 ahead of this time last year!]