Durham Bird Club's Castle Lake Nature Reserve

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Tuesday 30th November 2010

Sightings today from John Olley.

Castle Lake (completely frozen);
6 Snipe, 10 Lapwing, 2 Redshank, 4 Waxwing, 40 Common Gull, 6 Shoveler, 150 Fieldfare, 40 Redwing, 4 Meadow Pipit and 20 Chaffinch.

Farnless Farm;
Peregrine, 10 Grey Partridge, 1 Red-legged Partridge.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Stoneybeck Lake Intro

Quite often the first port of call for many visiting birders, Stoneybeck Lake is situated right alongside the main road leading into Bishop Middleham from the A177.


There is a small area for car parking on the opposite side of the road from the lake just before the turn-off towards Farnless Farm. View the lake from here to avoid disturbance.

Waders are the main attraction here, especially during spring and autumn migration when a good variety of species can be seen on the muddy margins.
Wildfowl is also well represented all year round and an increasing number of Gull's are using the site.

Scarce birds seen in recent years include Black-necked Grebe and Temminck's Stint.

Stoneybeck Lake viewed from the track leading to Farnless Farm. The main road which runs alongside the lake can be seen on the right.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Thursday 25th November 2010

Castle Lake sightings from John Olley.

Peregrine, Sparrowhawk, 3 Snipe, 450 Golden Plover, 300 Lapwing, 20 Redshank, 12 Curlew, no sign of the Red-necked Grebe.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Golden Wonder

Just a small proportion of the Golden Plover flock that can be seen at Castle Lake at the moment.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Tuesday 23rd November 2010

A much brighter morning, though showers remained widespread with a cold north-westerly wind.

Seen at Castle Lake this morning were the Red-necked Grebe still, a Spotted Redshank, 31 Redshank, 1 Ruff, 1 Green Sandpiper, 8 Curlew, 300 Golden Plover, 350 Lapwing, 22 Canada Geese, 1 Cormorant, 1f Pochard, 1 Kestrel, 6 Meadow Pipit and most of the regular wildfowl.

This afternoon the following were seen between Stoneybeck Lake and the Farnless Farm Pool;
35 Greylag Geese, 40 Mallard, 27 Teal, 65 Curlew, 25 Stock Dove, 1 Little Owl, 33 Goldfinch and a Fox.

Today's Spotted Redshank which represents the latest ever record for this species at BM.


One fortunate observer (me!) saw this cunning bushy-tailed animal bounding through the field between Stoneybeck Lake and Farnless Farm this afternoon.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Alan's Pool Intro

Alan's Pool is a small body of water situated very close to the south-east corner of Castle Lake at NZ333305.

Disturbance can be a problem here as footpaths pass close to the western and northern edge of the pool, but with care birds can be observed without them being wary.
The wet grassland is particularly favoured by waders and many of the species that frequent Castle Lake also visit Alan's Pool. The more common wildfowl species are also regular.

Alan's Pool viewed from the south-west, with the footpath in the foreground.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Sunday 21st November 2010

Birds on the lake at Hardwick Hall CP this wet Sunday morning included 24 Mute Swan, 31+ Gadwall, 5 Wigeon, 8 Pochard and 2 Goldeneye.

Drake Goldeneye on the lake at Hardwick Hall CP this morning.

In a field next to the Moto-X at Low Hardwick were 3 Pink-footed Geese, 18 Canada Geese, 48 Greylag Geese and 6 Grey Partridge.
A drake Goosander was seen to land on the most southerly part of the A1 Flashes.


Three Pink-footed Geese in with a mixed Greylag/Canada flock at Low Hardwick Carrs this morning.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Chiloe Wigeon

Poor record shot of the bird seen today.

20th November 2010

A very dull misty morning with low cloud and frequent bursts of heavy rain.

The Red-necked Grebe was present for its third day. It favoured the southern end of the lake and was usually seen feeding amongst groups of Wigeon and Tufted Duck.

Distant record shot of the Red-necked Grebe.

Other birds of note included two adult Mute Swans with four juveniles, 200 Wigeon, 1f Goldeneye, 1f Pochard, drake Goosander, 300 Golden Plover, 200 Lapwing, 2 Dunlin, 15 Snipe, 1 Ruff, 9 Curlew, 10+ Redshank and a Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Also present was an escaped Chiloe Wigeon. The Eurasian Wigeon were pretty curious but the Chiloe Wigeon became quite aggresive if they got too close.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

New species for Castle Lake!

Superb addition to the site list today when a Red-necked Grebe was found on the lake by John Olley.

Monday, 15 November 2010


Out this cold frosty morning armed with a (slightly) better camera to take some shots for future blog posts, needless to say most of the smaller water bodies were frozen at first but by midday the sun had got to work and some birds had returned to their favoured feeding areas.

The walk down past Castle Lake noted Kestrel, Grey Partridge, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Fieldfare, Redwing and Mistle Thrush, with about 300 Golden Plover circling just to the north-west.

One of the first birds seen along the bridlepath was a female Goosander, which landed briefly on the Stell before flying off towards Hardwick Hall. Other birds seen either side of Fishburn Lake included more Fieldfare and Redwing, Long-tailed Tit, Willow Tit, Treecreeper, Tree Sparrow, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and a few Skylark over the top.

Treecreeper near Fishburn Lake.

A brief diversion to check the unfrozen Low Hardwick Pools which held a Grey Heron and the two Mute Swans that usually hang out on Alan's Pool. A Buzzard flew past towards the flashes.

On Fishburn Lake were the two adult Mute Swans with their six cygnets, twenty Mallards and another Heron. Alan's Pool had the regular wintering Green Sandpiper with a Redshank for company.

Final call of the day saw 100+ Greylag Geese and three Redshank at Stoneybeck Lake and rather surprisingly, a female Pintail on the Farnless Farm Pool.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Castle Lake Intro

Castle Lake is without doubt Bishop Middleham's jewel in the crown and rightly deserves a place on any birdwatchers itinerary.

Apart from the numerous wildfowl and waders that frequent the lake throughout the year, the surrounding farmland and woodland provide more variety and with a little effort sixty or more species can be seen.

With the generous support of local landowners, the Durham Bird Club are to be congratulated on recognising the sites potential and for managing it for the benefit of breeding birds.

An excellent hide exists on the west side, keys costing £6, and available to non-members, can be obtained from the bird club's conservation officer John Olley. More details at http://www.durhambirdclub.org/ .

The lake lies just south of the village, which itself is accessed along a minor road leading from the A177 halfway between Sedgefield and Coxhoe.
Car parking is suggested on either the grassy triangle at the end of Foumarts Lane (NZ326313) http://www.streetmap.co.uk/map.srf?x=432650&y=531350&z=0&sv=nz326313&st=5&mapp=map.srf&searchp=ids.srf

or behind the church (NZ327312) http://www.streetmap.co.uk/map.srf?x=432750&y=531250&z=0&sv=nz327312&st=5&mapp=map.srf&searchp=ids.srf

From either parking spot walk south and the lake will soon become apparent just beyond a small sewage works. It is possible to circumnavigate your way around the lake following public footpaths, but for obvious reasons there is no access to any section of the shoreline.

Rare and scarce birds seen in recent years include Bean Goose, Red-crested Pochard, Black-necked Grebe, White Stork, Black Stork, Common Crane, Wilson's Phalarope, Pectoral Sandpiper, Black Tern and Red-rumped Swallow.

View from the hide looking south-east, November 2010.

Enjoy your visit and don't forget to submit your sightings to the county recorder.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

9th November 2010

Back down to Castle Lake this morning, hoping the recent unsettled weather had brought something interesting in. The brisk easterly wind coupled with frequent squally showers made viewing a little uncomfortable, at one stage time literally flew when the wind blew the clock off the hide wall!
Certainly an increase in wildfowl numbers from last week including a trio of female Goldeneye, my first of the autumn here.

Little Grebe 6, Wigeon 120, Gadwall 50, Teal 180, Mallard 80, Shoveler 30, Pintail 1f, Tufted Duck 20, Goldeneye 3f, Golden Plover 40, Lapwing 45, Dunlin 2, Snipe 3, Ruff 1, Curlew 1, Redshank 14.

Yesterday Birdguides reported a Snow Bunting at Farnless Farm, the first record at BM I believe. However the weather conditions today precluded anything other than a cursory glance. Hopefully it'll stick around.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Under Construction!

Yes I've finally succumbed and decided to start a blog to record birdwatching in and around the village of Bishop Middleham near Sedgefield, County Durham.
The village shot to birding fame back in 2002 when a pair of Bee-eaters chose to nest here, but nowadays it's the superb wetlands that attracts birdwatchers, with a wealth of species to be seen all year round.
Hopefully over the coming weeks and months ahead I'll be able to provide information regarding the various sites in the area to assist visiting birders.