I'll start at the very beginning...
February 4th: Stoneybeck Lake; Holme Fleet
A brief visit to Stoneybeck Lake near Bishop Middleham to look for the two ruddy shelducks reported there. They were seen very distantly. The photos were actually taken later on February 13th when I passed on another trip.
Same day, at Newburn Bridge, I watched a single dunlin among the ringed plovers but it remained steadfastly fast asleep so I didn't try to photograph it. North of the pipeline at Holme Fleet I spotted a miserable looking great white egret out on the marsh.
February 5th: Bank Island
A brief call at the Tower Hide by the centre where I watched a group of 4 tundra bean geese. Hiding in short reeds eventually they swam out into full view. Watched with a scope.
February 6th: Blacktoft
The new Reedling hide
An afternoon visit. Wigeon in the sunshine.
A barn owl flew past the new Reedling hide. Farewell Xerox! The owl eventually hid in the scrub by the hide. My camera was unable to distinguish the bird properly because of all the branches obstructing the view.
February 7th: Wykeham Raptor Watchpoint; Hilla Green; Tophill Low
One goshawk watched as it headed slowly west along the valley top. Plenty of crossbill sightings along with chaffinches and siskins.
From there I drove to Hilla Green hoping for a dipper. I got out of the car and walked over to the bridge. A dipper was on a stone in the middle of the river. I went back to the car for my camera. When I returned the bird had left and was not seen again although I waited quite a while. Moral: always take the camera with you!
To end my day out I drove to Bempton but all the auks had left again as they do at this time of year. Solitary gannet photo!
So I decided to pop down to Tophill Low as I thought there would be time to walk to North Hide and see if any kingfishers were about. Nearly everything has changed north of the centre but the hide was still there. I settled down on my own to watch and wait.
A kingfisher did appear but stayed some way off. A pair of Cetti's warblers were chasing among the dead reed flattened on the island [well, I assume it's an island] in front of the hide.
February 10th: Lemonroyd Sewage Works and Swillington Ings
Eventually a water pipit was seen along with a single meadow pipit and a multitude of pied wagtails. A couple of chaffinches, a few magpies and a lone grey wagtail made up the full cast. I left and drove the short drive over to Methley. Walking in along the causeway I can't logically justify it but when I start at the causeway end I think I'm at Swillington Ings but when I park up by 'Oddjob' it's St. Aidan's!
Anyway, I eventually located the black-necked grebe. A friendly birder told me where to go but I couldn't find the bird at all nor could a chap on a bike. Wrong information or, of course, the bird flew. They do that! I walked rather vaguely to the areas where I had seen them in previous years...
...a few shovelers attracted me when, suddenly, a black-necked grebe popped up alongside the shovelers and tufted ducks.
February 11th: In our garden.
After a long birdwatch from our back bedroom window I was rewarded with my first goldcrest of the year.
Mimosa [acacia dealbata] in our garden. Can't be many miomosa trees like this as far north as we are.
February 12th: Fairburn Ings
A brief visit to a reserve that seems somewhat neglected. Empty feeders, more than one path closed off. Reeds at Pickup hide were the only sign of life plus a great spotted woodpecker who was noisily excavating the very top of a dead tree. Somehow it managed to be almost invisible to the family that were trying to locate it.
I've seen Tweets calling them this. There are 4 lagoons. Only birds I saw that day were tufted ducks, mallards and coots.
February 13th: Bishop Middleham; Willington Water Treatment Works and Sandhaven Beach, South Shields
I spent a couple of hours on Fourmarts Lane, Bishop Middleham craning my neck up into the hornbeam trees to try to spot a hawfinch. Neither I nor any of the other five birders saw anything other than long-tailed tits and blue tits. A song thrush was quite confiding on the grass.
Willington Water Treatment Works produced the Pallas's warbler, goldcrests and bullfinches accompanied by the noise of parakeets. The warbler stayed behind the blue fence, often low down, and no-one was able to get a photo while I was there. Others have done really well. A bullfinch was proudly shaking a leaf in its bill [or was it trying to get rid of it?]
Sandhaven Beach at South Shields is often good for snow buntings. I couldn't find any near the pier or on the rocks but eventually along the path that fronts the dunes I found four. They were very much in the shade and flighty.
A pristine herring gull...
...and some runaway sanderlings.
Not sure where I took this. Hazel catkin. Male catkins plus a tiny red female flower. The female flowers often occur separate from the males.