Newburn To North Gare by Graeme Joynt
Hailing from Hartlepool and, more recently,
Seaton Carew, former County Recorder and current ‘Cleveland Bird Report’ editor,
Graeme Joynt, describes an area he has come to know well – the stretch of north
Cleveland coast from Newburn to North Gare, which has produced more than its fair
share of good birds over the years.
The stretch of coast between Newburn and North Gare is rather neglected by local
birders, with many content to drive straight through it while heading from Hartlepool
Headland to Seaton Snook. Nestled in the bay between the Headland and South Gare,
it may not be as attractive to migrants as either of these hotspots, but it is possible
to enjoy some excellent birding here, particularly if weather conditions are right.
It has a range of habitats, including sandy and rocky foreshore, reclaimed land
(now largely grass), large areas of scrub, sand dunes and a nearby golf course.
Old sewer outlet at Newburn
LOCATION, ACCESS AND STRATEGY
Newburn (NZ 518319) is the northernmost point and forms the starting point for this
site guide. It was formerly an active sewer outlet that was very attractive to gulls;
my first ever Mediterranean Gull was here, though that was more years ago than I
care to remember! Access is from Newburn Bridge, via Mainsforth Terrace, and into
a large car park that gives elevated, panoramic views over the sea.
Immediately to the south, on the seaward side of Coronation Drive, there is an expansive,
cropped grass, which is often good for waders at hide tide and is always worth a
look in spring and autumn for small birds. On the inland side, lies the longer grassland
of the former Seaton Landfill site, which ceased operating many years ago.
Continuing south, you have two options at the end of the grassed area: on the left
is a low, wooden building known as ‘The Reach’ and home to two restaurants and a
pub, though the latter is currently closed removing at least one temptation along
the route! Park in the car park and walk around just to the north of the building,
heading through the gap in the metal fence to the promenade. The beach here holds
large numbers of roosting gulls almost throughout the year and is always worth a
check, as it sometimes holds some rarer species. A telescope will help greatly.
Once you have had your fill of the gulls here, drive back out of the car park and
turn right onto the main road again, then turn left almost immediately. A stream
now runs parallel to you on the left, while the southern edge of the Landfill is
on your right. Park before the houses start and explore the area if conditions are
right for a ‘fall’ – the bushes across the stream to your left can produce migrants
in autumn. This is certainly a spot worth trying in a big fall when you have exhausted
the ‘usual’ spots. The scrub and low bushes to the north of the road (bordering
the Landfill) are also worth checking.
Steam at Warrior Park
Scrub at south end of Seaton landfill
Warrior Park Pond
Return to your car and drive further along this road, crossing the stream after
a few hundred yards. I once had a Hobby fly low across the road here. Shortly after
this you will see a pond on your right, known as Warrior Park Pond (NZ 518302).
If you park on the road by the pond and walk directly across the grass behind it,
you will come to the same stream you crossed earlier. In winter this stretch of
the ditch can produce Little Egret and Kingfisher if you are lucky.
After this short diversion, continue straight along the road past the pond until
you come to a T-junction. Turn left here and you will soon hit the coast road again.
Turn right at the junction and continue through Seaton Carew until you see the ‘Seaton
Hotel’ on your right. Take the road immediately before this pub and in front of
you is Seaton Carew Cemetery (NZ 524296), an oasis of trees on this stretch of coast.
Find somewhere to park and walk in through the main gate; you should now switch
to rarity mode, as this small churchyard has a long list of real goodies to its
credit. Spring and (mainly) autumn visits over the last 30 years have produced a
mouth-watering list of passerines.
Seaton Carew cemetery
Once you have checked the Cemetery, return to your car and drive back to the main
road. Turn right (south) and you will soon see the main bus station and clock tower
on your left. Immediately after this you can turn left, the narrow road leading
you into a large car park that often holds a Mediterranean Gull or two. Park in
the southernmost part of the car park and check the beach and sea here. Again, a
telescope is very useful for checking the sea immediately offshore.
Seaton golf course and North Gare bushes
A small track leaves the car park by the large sewage treatment works in the southwest
corner of the car park and this track leads you through the dunes between the sea
and Seaton Golf Course, finishing at the base of North Gare. Though this stretch
can be hard work, the lone line of sea buckthorns here is very attractive to migrants,
both in spring and autumn. Patient birders have found many good birds here in recent
years. The fairways of the nearby Seaton Carew Championship Golf Course are very
attractive to certain species and always worth checking is you are in this area.
Try not to trespass on the course itself of course!
If the bushes are devoid of migrants (told you it could be hard work!), then consider
crossing the dunes and checking the beach here. Once you reach the base of North
Gare (NZ 544284) you are at the southern point of this section and over to your
right is the ‘Golf Course Car Park’ where you can also access this stretch of coast
from Tees Road. If you are birding this area outside spring and autumn I would not
recommend walking the route from the car park by the sewage works; instead continue
driving south through Seaton Carew and out along Tees Road. After a few hundred
yards you will pass the Mayfair Centre on your right and after another short drive
you can turn first left to cross Seaton Common (NZ 530280) en route to the ‘Golf
Course Car Park’. The Common itself can be excellent, with a series of pools by
the road as you drive down towards the car park and this area has produced some
great birds. Once you reach the car park at the end of the road, grab your scope
and walk out across the golf course on the public footpath and check the adjacent
areas, which have been productive over the years.
Newburn is renowned for its gulls, divers and grebes. Glaucous, Iceland and even
Ross’s Gulls have all been found here in the not-too-distant past but since the
flow of sewage has stopped and the long-sea outfall was commissioned further down
the coast, rare gulls are much less frequent.
Med Gull at Newburn
However, a Mediterranean Gull is resident here for much of the year, disappearing
only in summer and it can often be found perched on top of one of the lamp stands
as you drive into the car park. The lack of sewage may have made the area less attractive
to gulls but the water here now attracts more grebes than ever before. Good numbers
of Great Crested Grebes are usually on the sea here outside the breeding season
and this site often attracts Red-necked Grebes and occasionally Slavonians too.
The pier-type structure which runs out into the sea is attractive to Purple Sandpipers
and this is a reliable site for this scarce wader in the winter months, along with
Turnstones, Ringed Plover and sometimes something unexpected, like the Avocet found
on the rocks here one winter’s day in a snow storm. The Alpine Swift which lingered
around the Power Station flew right past me here - one of my most memorable Cleveland
The cropped grass on the seaward side of Coronation Drive is good for Wheatears
in spring and autumn, while at high tide waders sometimes gather to feed here, affording
great views of Turnstones and Oystercatchers. The grassland of the former Seaton
Landfill on the landward side of the road once held Dotterel and Shore Lark when
the grass was short but its length now makes it difficult to work. One day it may
reward someone with a real skulker (Pechora Pipit would be nice!), or perhaps more
realistically, a Richard’s Pipit. The bushes on the ridge at the rear of the site
have produced Paddyfield Warbler, though they are much less accessible and extensive
than they were.
The beach off The Reach holds large numbers of roosting gulls almost throughout
the year and thorough checking has produced Glaucous, Iceland, Yellow-legged and
Mediterranean Gulls on a regular basis. A telescope will help greatly. All three
regular divers have also been seen here, so this is a spot well worth a little extra
time. A little to the south, the bushes across the stream can produce migrants in
autumn and I have seen Redstart, Blackcap, Sedge Warbler and the like here. The
scrub and low bushes bordering the landfill are also good and Barred Warbler has
been seen here, as well as a range of commoner migrants, again mainly in autumn.
This is where I had the Hobby flying across the road. Warrior Park Pond has breeding
Mute Swans and there are always Mallards and Moorhens present but I have also seen
Brent and Barnacle Geese, Pochard, Mediterranean Gull and Black-tailed Godwit here
too. One spring, a male Bluethroat skulked in the bushes by the road. The stream
in winter can produce Little Egret and Kingfisher if you are lucky.
At Seaton Carew Cemetery you should now switch to rarity mode, as this small churchyard
has a long list of real goodies to its credit. Spring and (mainly) autumn visits
over the last 30 years have produced a mouth-watering list of passerines, including
Red-breasted Flycatcher, Red-backed and Great Grey Shrikes, Wryneck, Siberian Stonechat
and Dusky, Icterine, Barred, Wood, Yellow-browed and Marsh Warblers, as well as
all the usual common migrants.
The beach and sea fronting the car park at Seaton Carew can produce Snow Buntings,
which are occasional in winter, though far more reliable are the Sanderlings and
Great Crested Grebes, which seem to like this stretch. Again, a telescope is very
useful. Goldeneye, Smew and even Sabine’s Gull have been seen on the sea here, so
a thorough check of the water is worthwhile. The adjacent long stretch of sea buckthorns,
known as North Gare Bushes, running southwards from the sewage works is very attractive
to migrants, both in spring and autumn. Many good birds have been found here in
recent years, including Long-eared Owl, Hoopoe, Bluethroat, Wryneck, Red-breasted
Flycatcher, Firecrest, Common Rosefinch and Pallas’s, Marsh, Icterine and Hume’s
Yellow-browed Warblers. Hartlepool’s first ever Richard’s Pipit flew past me here
one October. The fairways of the nearby Seaton Carew Golf Course are very attractive
to Wheatears and sometimes Ring Ouzels in spring, while trips of Dotterel have stopped
here on a couple of occasions.
The beach fronting North Gare Bushes and dunes on the seaward side can produce Snow
Buntings, which are casual visitors, and Shore Larks have been found here too. This
is my tip for Hartlepool’s first Desert Wheatear, probably in November. Little and
Roseate Terns have been seen here on a number of occasions and ‘Elsie’, the Lesser
Crested Tern, graced the beach here a couple of times in the 1990s.
Seaton Common can be excellent for birds, with a series of pools by the road as
you drive down towards the car park. This area has produced some great birds, including
White-winged Black Tern, Great White Egret, Spoonbill, Rough-legged Buzzard, Hobby,
Red-rumped Swallow, Hooded Crow, Water Pipit (very rare in Hartlepool), Temminck’s
Stint and Pectoral Sandpiper, as well as regular sightings of scarcities such as
Garganey, Wood Sandpiper and Lapland Bunting. It is also excellent for wagtails
in spring. Despite this list, it remains underwatched and there is real scope to
find yourself a rarity here.
The area beyond the North Gare car park at the end of the road has held some good
birds over the years: a Buff-breasted Sandpiper favoured the fairway here one recent
September. The path continues all the way to North Gare, which can be a very cold
place in winter! However, it has produced all three divers on a regular basis and
grebes, mergansers and sea ducks are all quite possible. I have had Hooded Crow
here, while others have found Shore Lark and Lapland Bunting on the shingle by the
breakwater. Cleveland’s first Franklin’s Gull flew past an astonished Martin Blick
here in 1977. What more motivation do you need?