Mud of the Tyne

Until this year I have largely ignored the mud of the Tyne when I have selected places to go birding.  I say this with some embarrassment as apart from a roosting Curlew Sandpiper at Dunston a few years back there have always been more exciting places to go.

This year and particularly this month it has formed a major part of where to go birding, as waders start to return south and use the mud as a stage of their great migration.  There is a sense of urgency when you get a tweet or a text talking of the latest new find.  The river is tidal through NZ26 and theire are very few places for waders to go when the tide is in.  Birds like Ringed Plover, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Lapwing that stay local find some spaces around Dunston Staith and other places.  New birds seem to move on.  As it was with this week’s new birds.

Early in the week it was Greenshank #113, two between Timber Reach and the Staith did not last to the next low tide.  3 Whimbrel #114 found later by @Gatesheadandbey seemed to do the same so having information shared quickly was much appreciated.  

Having not added my own finds to this water fest since Dunlin back in March I spent Saturday morning doing the low tide mud.  A tweet talking of a Black Tern from Friday night was a bit of a distraction.  Eager to add one more bird I tried searching along the South bank and the mouth of the Derwent in the strong winds.

The best place to view the South bank with all its gullies and steeply shelving mud is actually the North bank of the Tyne.  So after a couple of hours even though it was more exposed to the wind I headed over there. They even have benches to sit on, if that’s not too posh.  With my scope I did get better views of the mud, but the only new wafer for this week was a Common Sandpiper racing down river -wind assisted.

Then I found myself getting distracted by a Curlew picking worms from the mud on the North side.  It was close.  Through the scope I could watch it extract the worms from the mud like spaghetti at a kids party.  I have always thought, since seeing my first Skylark through a scope, that the value of good quality optics is looking at brown birds.  There are more shades of subtlety in the colour brown than any other in my opinion.  An hour went past with this one bird.

This reminded my of a blog I had read earlier in the week by Dr Miles Richardson @findingnature about connectedness.  The gist being that a lot of the information guides you see put up by well meaning bodies including species that are hard to see do not engage the public.  We should be encouraging people just enjoy listening to a Blackbird sing or in this case watch a curlew slurp up worms.


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