Julie arrived at mine at 6.45 this morning. She is Jay-jay from Birdforum. We were headed to Reeth at the southern end of Arkengarthdale to meet with others for the latest Yorkshire forum meeting. Last to arrive, so we didnt have to wait for anyone. Already in attendance were Birdieboy123 (John), Skink1978 (Mike), Keith Dickinson, Schiffornis (Andy), Jtw521 (Jim), Jimmy2faces (Marcus) and Lawts (Steve) and Ron. Quickly we transferred to 2 cars and headed up to the Black Grouse site up the valley. On the route up Red Grouse was year ticked. At the site (in Yorkshire!) approximately 30 black cocks were seen over quite a large area. They were starting to lek although not very vigourously. No females were seen. After this we headed to a secret forest site out of Yorkshire where we had crippling views of Crossbills (they landed on Jim's car at one point). They had no fear. Raptor was called and a large accipiter was seen. The group was divided on id but ten minutes later another even larger bird went up. Goshawk and a good looking one with gleaming white utcs. It seems likely that the first bird was a small male and the second a female. Also seen were Siskin and a year tick in the form of Grey Wagtail.
We headed to Stockton-on-Tees for the Hume's Warbler. Quickly it was seen to be moving around the churchyard. The first wingbar had been abraded away and the area between the two wingbars was green. Good indicators as to its ID. It was heard by some to make a disylabic call, the clincher. All happy we headed for the Tees barrage. Here an adult Yellow-legged Gull looked monsterous and was chasing other gulls and eating bread provided by a birder away from us. Around the area breeding plumage Cormorants were sat drying themselves. Most remarkable considering how far from the estuary we were a massive bull Grey Seal was by the barrage. Lawts thought he was hallucinating. On nearby Portrack Marsh was a redhead Smew, probably a sub-adult male. Quite a pretty bird.
The final area for us to visit was Redcar. Not sure im going back unless its a proper stonker. Wasn't keen. We dipped Iceland Gull beside Coatham Marsh. Up on South Gare we had a few Red-throated Divers, Guillemots and a small group of Red-breasted Merganser. Just in Durham so Mike couldnt county tick em. Take that. A further dip on the Iceland Gull and it was time to go home. A cracking day and good birds with good company. Hope to see everyone at the next one.