Kingfisher, little owl and golden plover among 99 species spotted at annual Souter Bird Race

A Kingfisher was one of the brids spotted.  Picture by Dougie Holden
A Kingfisher was one of the brids spotted. Picture by Dougie Holden

Bird lovers have winged it around a coastal beauty spot in an annual race to find as many species as possible.

In eight hours - by car and on foot - six teams identified 99 bird types, after setting off in all directions from Souter Lighthouse.

The winning vehicle team - from left,Andrew McAlpine, Graham Slessor, Keith McAlpine.

The winning vehicle team - from left,Andrew McAlpine, Graham Slessor, Keith McAlpine.

A Glaucus Gull, three Snow Buntings, a Kingfisher and a Little Owl – as well as a flock of around 2,000 Golden Plovers – were among the star attractions.

In all, 21 twitchers scanned the borough’s best-known bird sanctuaries during the unique Bird Race event.

Places checked included South Shields seafront, Marsden clifftops, Cleadon Hills, the Boldon Flats wetland, parts of Jarrow and Hebburn, and Whitburn.

Dougie Holden, National Trust ranger at Souter Lighthouse and the Leas, who was part of one of two walking teams, said: “It was really good day, and the weather was kind to us.

A snow bunting was seen. Picture by Dougie Holden

A snow bunting was seen. Picture by Dougie Holden

“We got out there and tried to cover as much ground as possible, with those on foot doing about 14 miles but with sandwiches and flasks to help.

“Obviously you can’t go to as many places as did the four teams in vehicles, but people walking get to see the birds better.

“It’s a competitive event but also very friendly and everyone really enjoys taking part. We all know each other, but we all try to win.

“There were some interesting spots – South Tyneside has some fantastic wintering locations.”

The event, which began around 16 years ago, was led by the National Trust and the local Coastal Conservation Group, which works on wildlife programmes.

Together they share knowledge and expertise which is used to protect the borough’s wildlife and habitats.

The Glaucus Gull, which is from the High Arctic, and the Snow Buntings, which have white plumes with brown and black touches, were spotted near South Shields pier.

The golden plovers, which breed in County Durham and Scandinavia, were located at Whitburn Steel, a rocky coastal spot near the former rifle range.

Competitors in vehicles spotted 90 species, and those on foot 74.

The vehicle team who spotted the most bird types comprised of Andrew McAlpine, Graham Slessor, Keith McAlpine.

The winning team on foot was Bob Freeman, John Brown, Andrew Watts.

The Bird Race is the first of several joint events this year which it is hoped will inspire people to get to know and love nature.

More information on those and the National Trust’s work at Souter Lighthouse is at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/souter-lighthouse-and-the-leas