For a very small county (which in fact no longer officially exists) Cleveland has an impressive bird list, both quantitatively (348) and qualitatively. Hartlepool Headland is an outstanding sea-watch point - there can be few rivals in the country as a place to see autumn skua movements and all the other seabird groups are well represented except for the larger shearwaters which remain very scarce, much to the frustration of the many dedicated sea-watchers. Staithes in the extreme south of the county offers almost as good sea- watching and South Gare, near Redcar, though set in a deep bay, can be surprisingly good in the right winds. Sea-watching depends very much on the winds coming from the northern quarter, preferably with some east, the stronger the better.
The county has a large estuary, and the extensive marshes, water meadows and inter-tidal mudflats to the north of the river Tees (between Port Clarence and Seaton Carew) together with Coatham Marsh to the south (nr. South Gare) attract large numbers of all the common waders. Many of the scarcer waders e.g. Pectoral Sandpiper, Temminck's Stint are pretty much annual and the list of rare waders is mouth- watering e.g. Long-toed Stint, Great Knot, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (3) amog a long list, though the failure to record two relatively common Americans, Lesser Yellowlegs and Long-billed Dowitcher, is something of a puzzle. The same general pattern of occurrence is true also for wildfowl (and only this spring Lesser Scaup was added to the county list); additional attractive sites for wildfowl are Scaling Dam and Lockwood Beck reservoirs in the south of the county and Crookfoot reservoir in the north. Constant reference to the north and south of the county hints at a serious, but friendly, rivalry between birders from either side of the river, a rivalry that also extends to an annual football match (currently honours are shaded by the north).
As at any east coast location passerine migration in spring and autumn is eagerly awaited at the coastal hotspots - Hartlepool Headland, North & South Gare, Boulby cliffs and the usual suspects are frequently recorded. Again a long list of rarities has been recorded. The county exerts a strange attraction on Paddyfield Warblers - 5 to date, as it seems to do also on Thrush Nightingales (5); Ross’s Gulls (6); Broad-billed Sandpipers (12) and White-rumped Sandpipers (14).
With extensive moorland to the south, one or two largish reed beds, and open country in the hinterland, common breeding birds are plentiful and varied though only very rarely do any very scarce breeders grace the scene. There are several nature reserves in the county run by the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust and one major reserve, Teesmouth National Nature Reserve, which lies at the core of a wildlife site designated (via EU Special Protection Area and Ramsar site classification) as being of international importance for birds, though it is hoped that the long awaited Teesmouth International Nature Reserve at Saltholm will soon join these. Much of the county is heavily urbanised and industrialised and bird watching surrounded by chemical and steel works or peering into people’s front gardens can strike the visitor as rather strange.
*See places other birders go Birding...
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 355
County Bird - Shelduck Tadorna tadorna [or at least the emblem of the Teesmouth Bird Club]
Fatbirder's very own checklists are now available through WebBirder
Where to Watch Birds: Northeast England
by Dave Britton & John Day [2nd Edition] Christopher Helm 2004 ?16.99p
See Fatbirder Review
ISBN: 0713638478Buy this book from NHBS.com
National Trail Guides, 3: Cleveland Way
Ian Sampson, Series: NATIONAL TRAIL GUIDES 3, Illus. Aurum Press
ISBN: 1854100211Buy this book from NHBS.com
Cleveland Bird Report
From: Colin Dodsworth, 63 Stokesley Crescent, Billingham, TS23 1NF 01643 551223
Guides & Tour Operators
Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…
CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.
2009 [05 May] - Nick Mason - North East England (Northumberland, Durham & Cleveland)
Bright sunshine and a gentle easterly greeted our arrival at Seahouses on the Northumberland coast. A quick look at the harbour rocks gave us Oystercatcher and Turnstone. The dual island boat trip headed out to Staple Island first, with hundreds of auks giving great views from the boat as we approached their nesting rock stacks.
Places to Stay
Coastguard Cottage - Huntcliff Nature Reserve, Saltburn-by-the-sea
A former HM Coastguard cottage in an unrivalled position on a cliff above Old Saltburn with sea and country views, circled in these photographs. Now providing a superb self-catering holiday cottage. Overlooking the Huntcliff Nature Reserve and a stone's throw from The Cleveland Way footpath with excellent cliff-top walking from the doorstep.
Teesmouth Bird Club
The county has a thriving bird club - Teesmouth Bird Club - with a very active membership and first rate records committee responsible for the annual publication of an excellent report. Perusal of this would give the flavour of Cleveland birding and copies can be obtained from Colin Dodsworth, 63 Stokesly Crescent, Billingham, TS23 1NF.
RSPB Cleveland Members Group
RSPB Cleveland Members Group was formed in 1974 and its aim is to bring together those interested both in the conservation and study of birds and in conservation in general. Their members consist of a broad age range who have wide knowledge of birds and allied subjects. Beginners and experts are equally welcome. Throughout the year the group meets for a variety of events, outings and lectures in the form of illustrated talks…
Durham Wildlife Trust
The Cleveland Wildlife Trust aims to ensure the sustainability of natural wildlife. They do this by working in co-operation with developers, planners, industry and the public to maintain and improve essential wildlife habitat resources within new and existing urban and industrial use. The Trust manages 14 reserves in a mixture of rural and industrial areas including Coatham Marsh, probably the most ecologically valuable wetland area on the south banks of the River Tees, incorporating 50 acres of ancient marsh, traversed by fresh water fleets.
Friends of Red Kites in the North East of England
The Friends Group was established in 2009 to encourages an active interest and community involvement in the protection and welfare of the red kite…
Teesmouth National Nature Reserve
Saltholme will be a fantastic new wildlife experience for the north of England and is currently being created in the Tees Valley. You can find out more about this exciting project here and don't forget to visit our diary page for monthly progress reports from the project team…
Forums & Mailing Lists
To post to list: NorthEastBirding@yahoogroups.co.uk
List contact: NorthEastBirdingfirstname.lastname@example.org
To subscribe to list: NorthEastBirdingemail@example.com
This group is for everyone interested in birds and birding in North East England (Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, County Durham, Cleveland, North Yorkshire). It is a discussion forum for all aspects of birding - sightings, trip reports, census work, personality profiles, bird race and Big Day records, lists - and jokes. Although its primary focus is birding in the North East, all other bird-related topics are welcome. However, this is NOT a forum for character assassination, slander or libel.
Birds can be hard to see among the trees and mammals may be hidden, but they will use the Cleveland Way as well, so look out for signs…