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Sat 16th Dec - Friday 22nd Dec

Saturday 16th

A Lapland Bunting was noted all week at Newburn

Lap Bunting image by Ian Forest

Barn Owl (GS) at ShibdonPond Gateshead reminded us of 3 species of owls seen back in Nov 1988, when Barn, Tawny & Long-eared Owls all roosted on site in adjacent trees. A couple of daylight hunting birds were noted at Houghton & 2 nr Rushyford on 19th (GB)

7 Snow Bunting remained at Shields (DH)

Peregrine over A690 Houghton (NU)

1GND, 1 BTDiver, Merlin & Snow Bunting at Blackhall.

Sunday 17th

Water Rail in Roker Park again (PeteC)

Monday 18th

possible Coues Arctic Redpoll in mixed finch flock at Barlow Fell. 200+ birds mixed finches present.

(Steve Fryer)

Raptor fest at Hurworth Burn (JO)

Merlin, immature Peregrine, Buzzards, Kestrels & Sparrowhawk

young male Merlin in the West of the County (Derek Bilton)

5Woodcock in the East Rainton area & 3 Hetton Bogs which had min of 5 Water Rails (CW)

Scandinavian Rock Pipit at SAFC Academy car park (JC)

Littoralis Rock Pipit (John Chapman)

Glaucous Gull at Shields seemed to have lost its attached hook & line

Winter wildfowl were more evident with Mergansers displaying at Hartlepool (BM)

Still a familiar sight on the N.Tees marshes in winter - the graceful Pintail - a very rare British breeding species, caught here in flight.

Tuesday 19th

Lapland Bunting again coming to a seeded area with 60 Linnet nr Newburn bridge although very flighty (Norman Urwin)

Bittern was spotted at RSPB Saltholme from the wildlife watchpoint (Dougie Holden) - another was on the Long Drag during the week.

3 Chiffchaffs were at Zinc Works (IF) - there has been at least one here since late October - another was retrapped by ringer at Whitburn having been rung there in the Autumn - both seem unlikely places to overwinter, but with with the pattern of an increase in winter birds over the past couple of years.

Other were noted at Sunderland (TM), Rowland Gill (BR), Pittington (SE), Ch-le-Street Swg Wks & Hetton (CW)

Chiffchaff - a warm toned bird, with pale feet & legs - pic by IanF

A drake Pintail & 2 drake Shovellers were amongst 90 other dabbling ducks on a flighting pond in the Durham City District (SE). Wigeon picked up down the valley at Chartershaugh, with 225 noted.

RSPB Saltholme continued to offer good opportunity to observe a Long-eared Owl at its roost whilst the Rainton area produced a handful of sightings one of which was a bird moving north at dusk & spiralling to gain height travelling for over a mile ! on a very mild evening after the recent thaw....

These dusk sightings were considered a good indication that a communal roost had developed & discrete observations of birds leaving a wooded site at dusk confirmed the presence of a roost holding 16 or more birds.

Leo phone-scoped in the twilight from 190 metres range (SE)

Short-eared Owls were still very hard to come by, an observer almost standing on one on 20th - & despite being present for several weeks, it is seldom seen hunting....

Seo - 'phone-binned' from range (SE)

Friday 22nd Dec

5Waxwings were noted flying inland over the well watched Hetton area (CW) with 140Pink feet north down the road at Lambton (MH).

Blackhall continue its excellent series of Black throated Diver records with 3 birds seen on the sea along with a dozen Red throats (Robbie R), noting x3 Jack Snipe on another of his local haunts at Shotton.

The week ended on a high note, only just after the winter solstice, a mild sunny morning encouraged a male Willow Tit into song at New Lambton (MH)

Willow Tit NZ34 (SteveE)

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