1. White-throated Robin (Hartlepool Headland, 7.6.11)
My first mega rarity of the decade was the famous White-throated Robin on Hartlepool Headland. To start with we were put off by the van-top viewing areas, but a few days later we decided to go anyway and we were actually able to get into the Doctor’s Garden to view the bird. It performed brilliantly as it fed on the lawns and flower beds, and really looked like a proper rare bird.
2. Collared Flycatcher (Low Newton, 8.5.13)
We had a perfect spring twitch in warm May sunshine to see the stunning male Collared Flycatcher in spring 2013. We had seen it before we even stopped the car and were able to watch it flycatching from gorse for the rest of the evening.
3. Ivory Gull (Seahouses, 8.12.13)
We were meant to be visiting relatives on this afternoon but news of an Ivory Gull on the golf course at Seahouses had us heading in completely the wrong direction! A short while later we were treated to the remarkable sight of an Ivory Gull wondering around the golf course just in front of us.
4. Fea’s Petrel (Newbiggin, 21.9.14)
The day after having a long but very productive day on Holy Island we were planning to have a bit of a rest, but news of a Fea’s Petrel being tracked up the coast got us moving! We arrived to a decent (for Northumberland!) crowd at Newbiggin and the tension mouted as it was seen from sites just to our south. Then, from behind a Sooty Shearwater, the Fea’s Petrel flew into view. The light was excellent and the bird not very far out, which made for a memorable moment with my most wanted bird.
5. Siberian Accentor (Newbiggin, 30.10.16)
Despite having ticked one already a couple of weeks earlier in Durham, the Siberian Accentor at Newbiggin was the first bird which came to mind when I put this list together. It took several hours to show for us, but when it did, it showed superbly as it crept closer and closer, down to just five metres or so, and in nice autumn sunshine. The looks, views and story behind this sighting makes it my personal favourite of all time.
6. Bee-eaters (East Chevington, 15.10.17)
While not our rarest find of the decade, the moment we heard and then picked up two juvenile Bee-eaters flying over our heads at Chevington was incredibly exciting! They remained a county blocker for less then a week as one of them reappeared at Druridge Pools and performed well for many visiting birders.
7. Little Bittern (Waren Mill, 5.5.18)
In 2014 we spent over eleven hours dipping the Little Bittern at Gosforth Park, so were pretty keen to see this bird when it was found at Waren Mill. We only had the small matter of a two hour drive from Allen Banks in one end of the county to the other end. Once we arrived we were told that it had flown off upstream, and three hours later it wasn't looking good. Luckily it was relocated in the evening and we were able to observe it at short range just across the small river.
8. Little and Pallid Swifts (Hartlepool Headland, 11.11.18)
This was one of those days when everything seemed to come together perfectly. We were visiting relatives in Stockton, and were getting ready to go to Hartlepool to look for the Pallid Swift when news came on that a Little Swift had been found there too. Within half an hour we were stood on the promenade with both rare swifts flying around together just metres from our faces.
9. Baillon's Crake (Monks House Pool, 5.6.19)
With two A-level exams the next day, I had spent all of the 5th of June revising. Then news of a crake at Monks House Pool came through so the textbooks were hastily moved into the car. However, when we arrived there didn't seem to be much hope of seeing the bird. Then, all of a sudden, it walked straight out of the rushes and started preening in the open! We were treated to unexpectedly good views of this mega county first for most of the evening.
10. Sooty Tern (Newbiggin, 9.7.19)
Following the end of my exams, I was planning on having a relaxing day around the house until news of a Sooty Tern powering north along the coast came on. I rushed (well actually got stuck behind a tractor for most of the short journey!) to Newbiggin and arrived with minutes to spare to see the Sooty Tern give us an incredibly close flyby. It circled the tern roost several times then continued north.
It's been a great ten years with plenty of other highlights too, so here's a few of the best of the rest...
- Male Citrine Wagtail in Norfolk
- Bridled Tern
- Self-found Thrush Nightingale on Holy Island
- Penduline Tits within metres of us in Devon
- Collared Pratincole calling over our heads at Castle Island
- Great Shearwater almost in the surf at Newbiggin
- Olive-backed Pipit lurking in some undergrowth in Sunderland
- Male Pine Bunting in Yorkshire
- Point-blank views of a female Citrine Wagtail
- Scops Owl
- Ross's Gull in the last light of 2017
- Singing Bluethroats and finally ticking my bogey bird of Broad-billed Sandpiper on the same day on Holy Island