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Northumberland

Heather
Red Grouse Lagopus lagopus scotica ©Keith Reeder Website

Birding Northumberland

Northumberland is a county in North East England. The northernmost county of England, it borders Cumbria to the west, County Durham and Tyne and Wear to the south and the Scottish Borders to the north. To the east is the North Sea coastline with a 64-mile (103 km) long distance path

Being England’s most Northerly county it can perhaps lay claim to be England’s last wilderness. With so much coastline rising to vast areas of moorland and peat bog, Northumberland offers a range of habitat and diverse birdlife. The Cheviot Hills rise to 800m in the North and in the west amid vast coniferous plantation lies Kielder Water Europe’s largest man made lake.

Northumberland is perhaps best known for the seabird colonies on the Farne Islands and they are certainly worth a visit with huge numbers of breeding Common & Arctic Tern, Kittiwake, Puffin and Shag. Further South Coquet Island holds an internationally important colony of Roseate Terns and whilst landing is prohibited there are boat trips around this small island from Amble.

Northumberland’s coal mining heritage has left its mark on the South East of the county with numerous mining subsidence ponds many of which are now nature reserves. Druridge Bay has several of these ponds including Hauxley, East Chevington, Druridge Pool and Cresswell Pond all Northumberland Wildlife Trust reserves. Between them they have an impressive list of birds and other wildlife.

Northumberland’s inland areas offer an opportunity to connect with many uncommon breeding species such as Black Grouse, Hen Harrier and Goshawk. A dedicated raptor viewpoint at Bakethin in Kielder can offer views of nine different raptors on a good day.

Over four hundred species are now on the Northumberland County List of which 274 were recorded in 2016, the last year for which data was published.

Notable records include Wilson's & Swinhoe's Petrels, Slender-billed Curlew, Red Flanked Bluetail, Red-eyed Vireo and Black Faced Bunting.

With so much coastline and offshore islands Northumberland can be a superb location for migrants, Holy Island, The Farnes and Newbiggin are all migrant hotspots with the latter having the added benefit of being an excellent sea watching location.

Top Sites

Allen Banks

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Owned by the National Trust this mature woodland runs along the River Allen in the South Tyne Valley. Good for woodland species and warblers.

Big Waters, Seaton Burn

Webpage

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Big Waters is the largest subsidence pond in the region, formed by the collapse of deep mine workings. Medieval ridge and furrow grassland supports many herbs including pepper saxifrage. Keys are available (to NWT members only, for £10) to gain access to both of the locked hides, which are otherwise closed to the public.

College Valley

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A private valley in the Cheviot hills West of Wooler. Cars are not allowed without a permit but you can walk down the valley that is about 7 miles long. Good for moorland birds.

Druridge Bay & Pools

Website

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An unspoilt beach with a number of mining subsidence ponds behind the dunes. Most have hides. A parking fee is required. Waders, wildfowl and passage migrants. The country park comprises three miles of beautiful beach and sand dunes, plus a large freshwater lake surrounded by woods and meadows. 

Farne Islands National nature Reserve

Webpage

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A group of islands which lie offshore from Seahouses. Boat trips go out hourly in the breeding season. High numbers of breeding auks & terns. Also a colony of Grey Seals.

Holy Island

PDF Article

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A National Nature Reserve encompassing Fenham Flats, Rossback Sands & Budle Bay. Excellent for waders on the intertidal areas. Passage migrants in Spring & Autumn along the islands footpaths. (Please check the Tide Tables as the island is cut off for 12 hours each day.)

Newbiggin By The Sea

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A small town on the coast in SE Northumberland. Church Point is an excellent sea watching point although it can be exposed in a NE gale. The golf course to the North is excellent for Spring & Autumn passage migrants and regularly turns up rarities. (An awful place but with the chance of great birds).

North Shields/Tynemouth

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The main fish quay on the River Tyne which is good for Winter Gulls. There is a small private park nearby at Tynemouth which attracts passage migrants. The Fish & chips are marvellous!

St Mary's Island (Inc. Curry's Point Local Nature Reserve)

Information

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St Mary's is a freshwater wetland pond atop the headland which overlooks St Mary's lighthouse at Whitley bay. It is home to a wealth of residential wildlife and for shorebirds roosting on the high tides. This has been a lively year with several rare sightings including avocet, bar-headed goose, white-rumped sandpiper, Wryneck, water rail, and so much more! visiting the pond to rest before continuing their worldwide journey.

Stag Rocks

Satellite View

Located 1 mile north of Bamburgh Castle the rocks can be found by the white stag painted on them. Excellent in winter for Divers, Grebes & Sea Duck.

Contributor

Chris Edwards

Additional Material

North Tyneside

chris@globalphotosite.org

County Recorder

Tim Dean

2 Knocklaw Park, Rothbury, Northumberland NE65 7PW

01669 621460

t.r.dean@btinternet.com

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 393

County Bird - Eider Somateria mollissima [The Eider is under the special protection of the Patron Saint of Northumberland - St. Cuthbert, who gave laws to protect it in AD 676 on the Farne Islands - the first protection for any bird, anywhere in Britain. Eiders are still often known locally as Cuddy`s Duck in his honour]

Useful Reading

Birds in Northumberland

Each year N&TBC publish an annual report for their recording area as ‘Birds in Northumbria’. It contains a full systematic list with accounts of all species recorded during the year. For details see: HERE

Birdwatching on the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Heritage Coast

Edited by Tom Cadwallender | Northumberland County Council | 2007 | Paperback | 24 pages, colour photos |

ISBN: 9781873402252

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Hadrian’s Wildlife

By John Miles | Whittles Publishing | 2012 | Paperback | 150 pages | 16 Plates - Colour & Black & White Photos & Illustrations |

ISBN: 9781849950633

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Northumbria Bird Atlas

Edited by Tim Dean, Dick Myatt, Muriel Cadwallender & Tom Cadwallender | Northumberland and Tyneside Bird Club | 2015 | Hardback | 512 pages, colour photos, colour distribution maps |

ISBN: 9780955740664

Buy this book from NHBS.com

The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Northumbria

Northumberland and Tyneside Bird Club | 2003 | Hardback | 468 pages, 36 col photos, line illus, maps |

ISBN: 0953883949

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Where to Watch Birds: Northeast England

by Dave Britton & John Day | Christopher Helm | 2004 | Paperback | 416 pages, B/w line illus, maps |

ISBN: 9780713668261

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Organisations

Friends of Red Kites in the North East of England

Website

The Friends Group was established in 2009 to encourages an active interest and community involvement in the protection and welfare of the red kite…

Natural History Society of Northumberland

Website

Get involved and become a member of the Natural History Society and get access to our nature reserve, education courses, field outings, talks, publications, nature conservation, research & more!

North Northumberland Bird Club

Website

Welcome to the website of the North Northumberland Bird Club. We are a friendly club for anybody living in or visiting north Northumberland who is interested in wild birds, irrespective of level of knowledge, experience or skill. The Club holds very popular Indoor Meetings and arranges Field Trips monthly. Information on these and other activities and projects are included in the regular newsletter all members receive as part of their subscription. If you would like to join the Club, please go to theMembership page for details of membership benefits and the application form.....

Northumberland & Tyneside Bird Club

Website

The Northumberland & Tyneside Bird Club was founded in 1958 and membership is open to all with a beneficial interest in ornithology. The recording area for the club comprises Northumberland, North Tyneside and Newcastle upon Tyne.

Northumberland Wildlife Trust

Website

Northumberland Wildlife Trust is the largest voluntary organisation concerned with all aspects of nature conservation in Northumberland, Newcastle Upon Tyne and North Tyneside. The Wildlife Trust manages over 60 nature reserves, each one a special place for wildlife. It also runs important species conservation projects such as Red Alert which aims to save the red squirrel. Through working with and advising businesses, landowners and local authorities, the Wildlife Trust ensures that the needs of wildlife and the local environment are heard…

Reserves

Abbreviations Key

Northumberland National Park

Website

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…a landscape of limitless beauty and communities that are warm and genuine. Welcome to Northumberland National Park, the land of the far horizons…

NWT Big Waters

Webpage

Satellite View

Big Waters is the largest subsidence pond in the region, formed by the collapse of deep mine workings. Medieval ridge and furrow grassland supports many herbs including pepper saxifrage. Keys are available (to NWT members only, for £10) to gain access to both of the locked hides, which are otherwise closed to the public.

NWT Druridge Pools

Webpage

Satellite View

Druridge Pools lies within two miles of Cresswell Village. The site is a former opencast coal mine sold to the Trust by British Coal in 1987, and has become an important addition to Northumberland Wildlife Trust.

NWT East Chevington

Webpage

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This reserve is still developing having been passed to Northumberland Wildlife Trust following opencast restoration in 2003. The site contains 2 large lakes with fringing reedbeds, grassland and recently planted woodland.

NWT Gosforth Park Nature Reserve

Webpage

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One of the best wildlife watching sites in Newcastle and Tyne & Wear, this private nature reserve is important for its rare fauna and flora. The Society has managed Gosforth Park Nature Reserve since 1929. This beautiful 1km x 1km wildlife refuge in the north of Newcastle has a shallow lake, extensive reed bed, mixed woodland and is a tranquil oasis from the city. The reserve is scientifically important for its uncommon flora and fauna, which includes Bittern, Kingfisher, Otter, Red Squirrel, Coral-root Orchid and Purple Hairstreak Butterfly.

NWT Hauxley Wildlife Discovery Centre

Webpage

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The Hauxley Wildlife Discovery Centre is one of the best wildlife-watching spots in the North East. Right next to the beach, it offers fantastic views across the length of Druridge Bay and is internationally renowned for its birds.

NWT Holywell Pond

Webpage

Satellite View

A pond surrounded by grassland, used by over-wintering migrant birds which are attracted by the pond's proximity to the coast. Breeding species include little grebe, pochard, greylag goose and sedge warbler. In winter, widgeon, godeneye and tufted duck are joined by greenshank, green sandpiper, amongst other rarities.

NWT Weetslade Country Park

Webpage

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A former colliery site, this reserve has been extensively landscaped to create a wildlife haven on the edge of the city with a hill, grassland, scrub, reedbed and woodland areas.

Forums & Mailing Lists

NorthEastBirding

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.

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Birding Pal

Information

Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…

Footsteps - Patrick & Louise Norris

Guide

Before my wife Louise and I set up Footsteps, I worked as a countryside ranger/manager for 20 years. In that role, I had to understand a great deal about the British countryside and I bring that knowledge to Footsteps and share it with you as we walk on the Northumberland Coast, in the Northumberland National Park and in the countryside between the two. So, if you want to know what that bird is, the tree or wildflower that we come across on our walks, then I’m there to identify those features and enhance the experience of your Footsteps guided walk in Northumberland...

Northern Experience Wildlife Tours

Tour Operator

Northern Experience Wildlife Tours is a Northumberland based nature tourism company…

Serenity Farne Island Boat Tours

Boat Trips

A variety of flexible trips to and around the islands. Andrew Douglas is a passionate birder and photographer, who often goes the extra mile (often literally!) to show guests spectacular sightings....

Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

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.

2008 [05 May] - Nick Mason

Report

Afer lunch we headed further north to a quiet moorland site that was home to one of England’s rarest breeding birds, the Hen Harrier. Protection of this site by a partnership of organisations has helped to give a rare opportunity to glimpse the breeding habits of this superb bird and, after a long walk, we were treated to the male harrier arriving with food and then passing it in mid-air to the female bird…

2008 [12 December] - Nick Mason - Northumberland Coast

Report

…red-breasted Merganser, Golden Plover, Common Scoter on the sea and, for a lucky few, a Bittern proved to be some of the morning’s bird highlights…

2009 [05 May] - Nick Mason - North East England (Northumberland, Durham & Cleveland)

Report

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.

2009 [12 December] - Nick Mason

Report

A short coach ride from the hotel we began birding at Amble harbour. Overlooking the Coquet Estuary, the harbour wall gave us a good vantage point. The resident Eiders paid us close attention, hoping for titbits. A range of waders were roosting on the estuary banks at the height of the tide…

2017 [06 June] - Wingspan

PDF Report

... We walked down through the village, passed the ruins of the ancient Priory and up on the bank to view the channel between the island and the mainland. We found a dozen or so Goosanders loafing on the rocks, also Oystercatchers, some of the common gulls and a huge group of Grey Seals lying on a sand-bar.

Places to Stay

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Beach House Hotel - Seahouses

Accommodation

The Beach House is family run and is praised for its relaxed "home from home" atmosphere, which the owners, Malcolm and Hazel, have striven to create. In its idyllic location, the Beach House is set back about 60metres from one of the most beautiful stretches of heritage coastline that Northumberland has to offer.

Beacon Hill Holiday Cottages

Accommodation

A selection of 15 of the best luxury holiday cottages Northumberland has to offer. Each holiday cottage has been awarded a 4-5 star rating. Each cottage is self catering and is set on a large farm surrounded by idyllic countryside and scenic views….

Blue Bell

Accommodation

When you arrive at the Bell at Belford you experience a tradition of over 250 years of catering for the needs of visitors to magnificent Northumberland. The hotel has been privately owned for some years now and during this time extensive refurbishment has brought out the original elegance of the old Coaching Inn, whilst retaining the modern comforts of today. Your bedroom, of course, is en suite, has colour television, telephone and all the other facilities that today`s traveller naturally expects.

Budle Bay Campsite

Website

Budle Bay Campsite for Caravans, Motorhomes,Camping, 14 bunk bedded Bunkhouse and 4/5 people Eco Tents all available at affordable prices We are situated in Warren Mill village opposite the Chesterhill Slakes in Budle Bay, an ideal birdwatching area. The site is only 5 miles from Seahouses where boats leave for the Farne Islands and approx 10 miles to Holy Island…

Cheviot Holiday Cottages

Accommodation

Cheviot Holiday Cottages are 5 Stars, award-winning, luxury, self-catering holiday cottages set in the heart of the Northumbrian countryside. Superbly located for walks and leisure on the edge of Northumberland National Park, our holiday cottages offer peace and tranquility combined with outstanding luxury self-catering accommodation…

Coquet Cottages - Warkworth

Accommodation

We have several luxury 5 Star holiday cottages in Warkworth, we have many bird watchers and walkers stay with us, as there are so many great places nearby of great interest to them. Our cottages have lots of reference books of interest to birdwatchers and many of the cottages are located directly facing onto the Coquet Estuary, which is a wonderful place to watch local and migratory birds…

Coquet Vale Hotel

Accommodation

The Coquet Vale retains that friendly informality and reputation for value that has become its hallmark. This, in addition to its outstanding cuisine, has earned it an enviable reputation with both locals and visitors alike. Traditional Northumberland beef dishes and good English fare, are always on hand to ensure that our guests and visitors are well fed and comfortable.

Keepers Cottage - Bonnyrigg Hall

Accommodation

A beautifully converted former gamekeeper's cottage which offers peaceful, luxury accommodation for 4 people. Set in 15 acres of woodland and garden grounds, it offers views of Hadrian's Wall and is situated in the Northumbrian uplands with a very diverse bird population. Greenlee Lough National Nature Reserve is less than half a mile, which includes a bird hide maintained by the National Park…. Includes 4 poster bed and Jacuzzi bath. This luxury rural holiday accommodation has recently been awarded ETB 5 Star.

Northumbria Byways

Accommodation

Quality self catering cottages throughout Northumberland and the Borders. Discover breathtaking expanses of golden beach, superb castles, scenic valleys and wild moorland and enjoy the peace and tranquillity of an area of great natural beauty, steeped in Borders History.

Northumbrian Cottage

Accommodation

Make your holiday £ go further in 2009. Holiday in one of our quality Northumbrian Cottages.

Whitelee Holiday Cottages

Accommodation - Facebook page

Whitelee Holiday Cottages offer four-star self-catering accommodation in a wonderful location within the hills of the Northumberland National Park. The three holiday cottages overlook Whitelee Fell National Nature Reserve, one of the largest reserves in the country, and only two miles from the Scottish border…

Blogs

Abbey Meadows

BLOG

Male nurse living in Morpeth. Interested in all aspects of wildlife. Publishing just a few nature notes from the Morpeth area.

Alan Tilmouth - Words About Birds

BLOG

I'm a birder based in Northumberland, I've had a passion for nature and birds ever since childhood, I suspect spending weekends in the valleys of the Cheviots and some of Northumberland's great beaches rubbed off on me. Later, as a wandering teenager, exploring the semi-industrial coastal landscapes around South East Northumberland just reinforced my love of outdoors.

Andrew Hodson - Yellowbelly in Exile

BLOG

The ramblings of a recycled teenager, mainly about birding and other wildlife excursions.

Brian Bullough - Northumbrian Birding

BLOG

Birds, birding and wildlife around Northumberland, Durham etc…

Cain Scrimgeour - Holywell Birding

Blog

Last updated June 2015 - The natural world is in my blood, I have the 'gene' some people may say, there is no better feeling than being in the wilderness and knowing what exists within it, whether it is within a garden, stretch of green belt, or the remoter parts of Scotland, I hope, one day, to become truly part of the wild. Living in West Monkseaton has put me on the doorstep of some amazing places within Northumberland, particulary Holywell Pond, Dene, and the Deleval estate…

Ilpin - Druridge Diary

BLOG

A blog dedicated to the wildlife I find on my local patch - Druridge Pools. I live in Ellington, four miles from Druridge Pools, I can be there in 6 minutes flat if a MEGA turns up…

James Common - Common By Nature

BLOG

I’m James, a wildlife conservationist, nature writer, birder, blogger, commentator and aspiring author from Northumberland.

John Malloy - Birding Sometimes

BLOG

Grumpy birder / photographer. Complains alot about weight of photography kit - currently struggling to carry a Canon 1DIII / Canon 500mm IS / Canon extenders (1.4/2.0), Canon 100mm - 400mm IS / Wimberley Head and a Lead Tripod. When it's dark, lighting supplied via Canon 580EXII speedlite flash gun, held above the lens with a Wimberley flash bracket. The birds all looked so strange They seemed so far away… Oh, and I like music, alot…

Jonathan Farooqi - Jonny's Birding Blog

BLOG

Killy Birder

BLOG

A patch birder, with a passion for nature and an occasional twitch…

Stewart Sexton - Boulmer Birder

BLOG

Wildlife and stuff around Howick Village and beyond…

Other Links

Kielder Bird of Prey Centre

Website

An opportunity to meet, see and hear Owls and Birds of Prey from around the world and learn about the ancient sport of falconry.

Natural Born Birder - Birding North Northumberland

Website

My obsession with birds began on the NE coast of England where I grew up in one of the best birding spots in Northumberland: Stag Rocks at Bamburgh. With Lindisfarne (Holy Island) and the seabird colonies on the Farne Islands visible from the house it was inevitable that birding would form a substantial part of my life. I never had a chance…

Newbiggin by the Sea and Birds

Website

In the world of birdwatching Newbiggin has become a name known up and down the land during the last 13 years although the history of man watching birds goes back as far as the mid Nineteenth century when Hancock (the same one the museum is named after in Newcastle) is thought to have visited…

Northumberland Coast Birding

Article

The Northumberland coast is a birdwatchers paradise. In the summer internationally important numbers of seabirds come to the here to breed. In the autumn, hungry and tired migrant birds stop off to feed for their onward journey and in the winter, wildfowl and waders come from their northern breeding grounds to spend the winter here.

Photographers & Artists

Photographer - Keith Reeder

Gallery

I’m Keith Reeder, and I shoot bird, wild (and sometimes not so wild) life and motor sports. I live in South East Northumberland, and I use Canon gear.