Birding St Mary's

Formally Budget Birder


Sightings
Local patch
ST MARY'S local patch for me is from the Brierdene to what is locally called the "DONKEY FIELD"
(A small mixed scrub field next to Colywell Bay Seaton Sluice, which used to have Donkeys in).
Excellent for early Wheatears and Yellow Wagtails. Red Backed Shrike has also been seen here in recent years.

There is also a a few Willow Trees at the North end of the Wetland. Where if the weather conditions are right, you can find passing migrants such as Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher and if you lucky something like a Bluethroat can be found here (been a few records in recent years here).
There is a public footpath on the west of the wetland heading towards Seaton Sluice. A good variety of Bushes here can attract large Numbers of GoldCrests in the Autumn. Both Pallas's Warbler and Yellow Browed Warbler are almost annual here.
 
IT also includes Whitley Bay cemetery. Which has mixed Trees and a good line of mixed bushes along the rear track. Were the more common birds can be found. e.g.. Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Coal Tit. It is also a good place for warblers in the Autumn (Pallas's and Yellow-Browed and Wood Warbler have been found here most years)

There is also many different plants/animals to see here at St Mary's lighthouse,  also good sea watching as there is always a chance of Dolphins/Porpoise's passing and I was lucky enough to see 3 Minke Whales. Grey Seals are our most common marine visitor here.
This site is also the best place to see Roseate Terns in good numbers in the late summer. Arctic Common and Sandwich Terns also roost here in large numbers. With Black Tern and Little Tern seen Passing most years.

There is a small freshwater wetland here, which is good for wildfowl,
Teal, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Garganey, Wigeon. Moorhens.
And when the water levels right, you sometimes find passage waders.(Little Stint. Pectoral Sandpiper .Green Sandpiper .ETC......)
The wetland area has attracted some rare/scarce birds since it was created.
e.g.. Richard's Pipit, Bltyh's Reed Warbler, Temmincks Stint. Avocet (still scarce in Northumberland) Blue Winged Teal.

The Island itself has a sea watching hide. If closed ask at the shop and usually they will open it for you. If busy please remain quiet and respect other hide users. (You need a key if Island visitor center is closed £7 from the visitor center )
Which is excellent if the right winds are blowing (North or east wind combinations). Little Auk and Storm Petrel are best seen from here, Plus wildfowl and Geese often pass here in large numbers. e.g.  Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter  ( in smaller numbers) Wigeon, Teal, Goldeneye, Pink Footed Geese. Brent Geese, Barnacle Geese. Etc..

There is a visitor center with a small cafe and shop. You can climb to the top of the lighthouse if you want. (SMALL FEE PAYABLE).
Be aware the causeway will get covered at High Tide. (A tide table is available in the North Car park by Curry's Point )

There are a few  mixed farmland fields and scrubby areas where common birds for example..Reed Buntings, Linnets, Meadow Pipits, Skylarks,Curlews,Robins, Dunnock, Kestrel can be found.A full list of species I've seen here has a page to itself.
So there's something here for everyone. Next Time your passing why don't you drop in and have a look round IT'S WELL WORTH IT!..


The North Bay is a great place to see common waders. Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Curlew can all be seen here.Its best a few hours before high tide. So you can find a good spot and let the tide push the waders towards you. Rock Pipits, Pied Wagtails and Turnstone often feed on the washed up seaweed here. If you look into the bay itself Eiders and sometimes Red Throated Divers can be seen fishing in the sheltered water.



History
Some brief notes on St Mary's Island
The Island itself has undergone many changes over the years, from being used by the Monks at Tynemouth Priory to fishermen as a haven during rough seas. There has also been a public house on this site (during the 19th century). Which was demolished to make way for the current house. For a complete history of the Island contact the Local History society at North Shields Library.

There is now a causeway connecting it to the mainland (which is covered by the tide)
Please do no try to cross when covered  by the tide as it's quite dangerous. It is mostly a sandstone rock which was connected to the mainland many years ago. 

The lighthouse itself was finished in 1898 at the cost of £8,000 and stands 120ft high, you can climb the 137 steps if able ( video service available for the  disabled). It is no longer in service ( It remained in use till 1984 when surpassed by modern navigation methods)but is used as a navigation marker by airline pilots landing at Newcastle Airport. The lighthouse is floodlit at night and can be seen for many miles.
St Mary's is also a SSS I (site of special scientific interest)and a VMR(voluntary marine reserve)
Please respect this if you visit.

St Mary's Island and Lighthouse

Opposite the Island is a point known as “CURRY’S POINT". Where in the autumn of 1739 Michael Curry could be seen hanging from a gibbet. He was executed at the Westgate Newcastle on 4th September 1739 for the murder of the landlord of "THE THREE HORSE SHOES" Hartley. As was the custom at the time, he was hung within sight of the crime. A plaque stands there today to mark the spot.




There have been a number of shipwrecks in the area of ST Mary's INCLUDING..
Feb 12th 1763 FOWLER.
Jan 7th 1812..SPEEDWELL
Oct 1880.. MARY ANN
Mar 14th 1888 ..CZAR
Sept 24tH 1889..GOOD HOPE
Jun5th 1891 ..TRE VENNER
Jun 26th 1891..GOTHERNBERG CITY. A small example of the wrecks here. Which are often visited by local  Scuba divers.





Where to find St Mary's Island...

St Mary's Is located about 2 mile North of Whitley Bay town center.Just off the A193 Links road.
Grid Ref :NZ 352754
Which has also been known as "BATES ISLAND" or "HARTLEY BATES" it's now "BAIT ISLAND"