2009 was a very different year compared to the previous. We had some a little more understanding of how birds genearlly use the site and created a number of new net rides in order to increase our catch rate and this certainly paid off! We did not start the autumn ringing season until the 28th August due to work and other commitments.
The September catch was 106 birds compared to 161 in 2008 as there was no big fall of birds. However there were a few scarcities around. The morning of the 12th September was a bright and sunny day and very few birds being trapped. A group of local birders had joined John and myself at the north car park and were discussing the usual bird related subjects, betting on which rares turn up this year etc, when a large warbler flew over our heads from the 'Big Mound' to a strip of vegetation by the roadside. We were sure it wasn't a blackcap and after a closer inspection no one could get a positive identification on the bird. We attempted to move the bird through the vegetation were a newly placed net ride had been cut a few weeks before. The bird flew over the net so we tried again from the other side and it flew into the net. Once in the hand I identified it as a barred warbler. It came as a shock to us all with many smiling faces and phone calls being made to other local birders in the area.
Similar weather conditions were experienced on the 19th of September. There had been half a dozen yellow-browed warblers reported within Whitburn Coastal Park during the week and we had hoped one might find it's way into a net, however one stayed around the perimeter of the 'Big Mound' during the early part of the morning and call often. As usual the regular birders had joined us and the majority of us heard the yellow-browed call as it flew over to the roadside vegetation. Once again with a little persuasion the yellow-browed flew into the net. It was a new species for John and he had a huge grin on his face. September soon rolled into October and with the recent success we were hoping for a rarity.
Ringing during the first half of October was fairly slow with only the usual robins, tits and finches around. I managed to get some time off work during the week and on the 14th I opened the nets on a foggy dark morning. The fog had forced the migrating thrushes to ground and catches of redwing (12), blackbird (12) and song thrush (1) were quite respectable for Souter Bird Observatory. The next morning I headed back down to the Obs in the dark but was confronted by very heavy fog as I drove through South Shields. I drove into the coastal park and deliberated on whether to open a few nets or not due to the fog. I stepped out of the car a immediately heard several thrushes calling in the Big Mound and I need no more incentive to open nets. I decided to put up the regular number of nets and had my fingers crossed the fog might ease off a little. I was catching a few blackbirds and redwings and occasionally shaking the nets to remove the moisture that had built up on them. Walter and Andy Watts joined me for the session and Andy came on the net round at 0815. I walked upto the second net I saw a bird upside down in the net (as usual) as I got closer I could not recognise the species thinking its a robin but not with a red breast and why does it have a white eye ring and orange flanks!! At that moment my mind was racing through what it could be, but it took a fraction of a second to realise that before me was a RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL. I quickly turned the bird over in the hope it had a blue tail and there it was, I turned to Andy who was behind me with my eyes and mouth wide open in sheer shock and amazement. I told him what we had caught and I carefully extracted it. I immediately phoned John who was driving down the A19 and too far away turn back in time for the birds release but he phoned the local birders. Walter didnt believe me when I told him what was in the bag, but he soon did when I showed him. We had also caught a few thrushes so I processed them and in the mean time birders were startin to turn up waiting to see the star bird. I made sure i was in a closed car to take the bird out of the bag as I didn't want this to be the one that got away!! The bird was processed and photographed and taken down to a strip of vegetation were I hoped it would show for the birders, however it had different plans a flew straight back into the Big Mound never to be seen again.
On the 22nd October a few chifchaffs were being trapped and there was obviously a small movement occurring. A much paler chiffchaff was trapped and so we called a local birder Ian Mills (an ex-bird ringer) to help shed light on wether it was just an eastern race or a siberian chiffchaff. We were not too sure what race or species to put this bird to, but on the follwing net round we trapped a second pale chiffchaff which showed more features of siberian. On the 28th a firecrest was trapped and ringed and was one species John had been waiting for as there had been atleast four present in the coastal park during the week. The October total was 288.
November was fairly quiet with 13 birds ringed which were mainly lesser redpolls, chaffinches and blackbirds.