Yesterday I headed south for the morning with SH and DM. Hartlepool headland was our first stop in search of a bird that has eluded me for far too long and on far too many occasions, Shore Lark.
When we arrived at the area of wasteland north of the Spion Kop cemetery where the Lark has been frequenting, it was a bleak prospect. It was misty and eerily quiet and after searching the cemetery, we tackled the wasteland. The section south of the cemetery had more plant life and ground cover amongst the strips of concrete so made it harder to scan. 50+ Oystercatcher, Turnstone and a mixture of gulls bathed in the shallow pools and a Common Snipe and bizarrely four Grey Partridge flushed, how they are surviving there I have no idea. Whilst walking through, a Weasel ran past a meter or so in front of me, stopped, stood on its hind legs and stared at me before running back into the undergrowth.
Lastly we walked across the fly-tipped area between the two mounds. Once we reached the second mound a lark sp. lifted and flew back towards the cemetery. Eventually relocated on the beach by Steve it flew up the bankside and landed back in the first area of wastlend we had checked. Near the pools where the Oystercatchers were I spotted it running along a raised area of earth. It was indeed my bogey bird the Shore Lark-lifer. At times it was so well camouflaged only its yellow and black mask got us back onto it. We watched at close range as it fed on the earth and ran across the concrete. It was still there showing well when we left for the harbour.
At Hartlepool Fish Quay we were very kindly invited to the end of the pontoon by the local fishermen to view the Black Guillemot which was swimming and diving just off the end of the pontoon. Excellent views of what can be a tricky bird form what I've heard. Down on Saltholme we spent a few hours but didn't see too much. The GW Teal didn't show but a pair of Pintail and a few Little Egrets were good. 42 Barnacle Geese fed close to the fence on the track to the main hide and on the water in front of the visitor centre a Great Crested Grebe slept. From the feeding station in front of the hide were a flock of Tree Sparrows and a Fox which ate apples not bothered at all by the people only a windows width away. Whilst watching the Seals at Seal Sands a Peregrine flew overhead and spooked all the waders in the vicinity.
Ward Jackson Park was our last stop and as soon as we got out of the car we could hear the cry of a Ring-necked Parakeet. Now sunnier and in a town park filled with Parakeets it was hard to believe this was the same town as the misty headland we had visited in the morning. A few pairs of Parakeets including some birds in nest hole in trees showed well as they flew about calling like mad. Also a drake Goosander was on the duck pond but unfortunately a Grey Squirrel was also in the park.