Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla ©Ashley Beolens Website

The recording area of Cleveland consists of the former County of Cleveland, which now consists of the unitary authorities of Hartlepool, Stockton-on-Tees, Middlesbrough and Redcar & Cleveland. It is bordered by North Yorkshire to the south, county Durham to the northwest and the North Sea to the northeast and east. The Teesmouth Bird Club (founded 1960) is the recognised authority on the birds there.

Cleveland is extremely varied geographically. The Tees estuary is highly industrialised and urbanised. Much of the remainder of the lowland parts of Cleveland is farmland. East Cleveland marks the northern end of the chain of cliffs that runs along the North Yorkshire Heritage Coast. South Cleveland is extremely hilly, forming the escarpment of the North York Moors. One of the best-known symbols of Cleveland is the distinctive hill of Roseberry Topping, which overlooks Newton under Roseberry on the Great Ayton to Guisborough road. Its original roughly conical form was undercut by extensive mining, giving it a jagged appearance that many have thought reminiscent of the Matterhorn mountain.

Birding Cleveland

For a very small county (which politically and administratively 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) among 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; 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.

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 beginning to be rivalled by Saltholm. 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.

Top Sites
  • Hartlepool Headland

    WsbpageSatellite View
    Make no mistake, it can and does turn up real rarities from time to time and many of Cleveland’s birders make for the headland in spring and autumn, when the weather looks favourable for incoming migrants.
  • Tees Estuary

    InformationSatellite View
    The Tees Estuary is designated as a European Marine Site and the coast as a Special Protected Area. This area is protected due to the mud and sandflat habitat that is key for many wading bird species. The creation of a large RSPB reserve at Saltholme has encouraged growth of a wide range of migratory bird populations. Common Terns are known to use the Teesmouth area, with a breeding colony at RSPB Saltholme during the summer months.
County Recorder
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 371

    County Bird - Shelduck Tadorna tadorna [or at least the emblem of the Teesmouth Bird Club]
  • Cleveland Bird List

    PDF Checklist
    Records are welcomed from both casual and regular contributors, whether or not they receive copies of the Report or are members of the Teesmouth Bird Club. For inclusion, records should be sent to the Teesmouth Bird Club Recorder.
Useful Reading

  • Birds of Cleveland

    | By Martin Blick | Tees Valley Wildlife Trust | 2009 | Paperback | 352 pages, Col & b/w illus | ISBN: 9780956328304 Buy this book from
  • The Breeding Birds of Cleveland

    | A Tetrad Atlas 1999 - 2006 | Edited By: Graeme Joynt, James Victor Fairbrother and Parker Ted | Teesmouth Bird Club | 2008 | Hardback | 428 pages, 135 line drawings, 70 photographs, 127 distribution maps | out of Print | ISBN: 9780905482019 Buy this book from
  • Where to Watch Birds: Northeast England

    | By Dave Britton & John Day | Christopher Helm | 2014 | Paperback | 416 pages, B/w line illustrations, maps | Out of Print | ISBN: 9780713668261 Buy this book from
Useful Information
  • Cleveland Bird Report

    2020 £7.50 each (£5.00 to members) plus £2.00 for p.&p. per copy.
  • *Teesmouth Bird Club

    The Teesmouth Bird Club was founded in 1960 and is the recognised authority on the birds of the former County of Cleveland, now consisting of the unitary authorities of Hartlepool, Stockton-on-Tees, Middlesbrough and Redcar & Cleveland.
  • Cleveland Naturalists' Field Club

    The Cleveland Naturalists' Field Club is probably one of the oldest clubs in the Teesside area. It was founded in April 1881, the name of Cleveland Naturalists' Field Club has been used since 1886. The United Kingdom has a long history of these local natural history groups and they provide the backbone of knowledge for local and national surveys of the flora and fauna of Britain.
  • 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
  • RSPB Cleveland Members Group

    This is the website of the Cleveland Local Group. RSPB local groups are a great way to meet friendly, like-minded people in your area while learning more about birds and wildlife.
  • Tees Valley Wildlife Trust

    Tees Valley Wildlife Trust is part of the influential UK-wide partnership of 47 Wildlife Trusts. The Trust has worked for more than 30 years to protect wildlife and wild places, and educate, influence and empower people. We manage 15 Nature Reserves and help others to manage their countryside sites. Our work is helping to secure the future of many important habitats and species, which might otherwise be lost.

Abbreviations Key

  • CP Flatts Lane Woodland

    WebpageSatellite View
    Flatts Lane Woodland Country Park is the perfect place to explore the countryside south of Normanby. The park is also an ideal starting point from which to visit the Eston Hills. There are circular walks, spectacular views and fascinating history to be discovered just minutes away.
  • LNJR Linthorpe Cemetery

    WebpageSatellite View
    The southern section of the cemetery has an almost complete canopy cover of mature trees, most of which were planted in the 19th century. The dominant species are horse chestnut and sycamore, with scattered species of pine, lime and oak. The cemetery is rich in bird life, both resident and seasonal. Regular songbirds include the nuthatch, greenfinch, dunnock and siskin. Dead standing timber with luxuriant ivy growth provides important nesting and feeding sites for tawny owls and great spotted woodpeckers.
  • LNR Coatham Marsh

    WebpageSatellite View
    Coatham Marsh SSSI is an amazing wild oasis amongst the industrial heritage that made Teesside. It is most notable for its reedbeds and open water pools that attract hundreds of waders and waterfowl each year. There are also acres of open grassland and wildflower meadows to explore. Landscaped mounds, derived from its industrial past, give great views over the marsh and surrounding Redcar.
  • LNR Errington Woods

    WebpageSatellite View
    This community woodland of approximately 100 ha is located above New Marske and has achieved Local Nature Reserve status. It was mainly planted in the 18th century to provide a cash crop, and extended in the early 20th century with a resultant tree mix that is predominantly coniferous. There is a good network of paths throughout the wood, and a new footpath access to the wood has been created which runs from Quarry Lane to the ruined winding house. There are also areas of deer habitat, and pine martens have been seen in the wood.
  • LNR Eston Moor

    WebpageSatellite View
    The area generally referred to as Flatts Lane, Normanby, extends along the northern slope of Eston Hills from Ormesby in the west through Flatts Lane to Eston in the east, and on to the higher land of Eston Moor.
  • NNR Teesmouth National Nature Reserve

    InformationSatellite View
    Teesmouth NNR is set against a backdrop of heavy industry - it shows how nature can adapt and thrive in the most unlikely situations.
  • RSPB Reserve Saltholme

    WebpageSatellite View
    Saltholme is a wildlife oasis, with wildflower meadows, bird-rich pools and lakes, and whispering grasslands to explore. Dive in to the family zone, or simply enjoy a moment in nature.
Sightings, News & Forums
  • Cleveland Birds

    Twitter Page
    ...any thing to do with the birds of cleveland and if you need info on sites or where to see birds in cleveland just ask plus all nature in general in Cleveland
  • Teesmouth Birdclub

    Your Sightings
  • Teesside Coastal Wildlife

    Facebook Page
  • teesbirds

    Bird sightings for Cleveland but also including interesting sightings from Durham and North York’s.Covering all aspects of nature.
Trip Reports
  • 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.
Other Links
  • Cleveland Way

    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
Photographers & Artists
  • David Brown's Birdwatching and Wildlife Gallery

    The following links will take you through a collection of bird images that have been taken from various locations throughout the UK.

Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND

Skip to content