St Mary’s Island and the surrounding coastline make up one of the most important tourist and coastal wildlife habitats in the County. Located to the South of Seaton Sluice and Blyth and to the North of Whitley Bay the site is easily accessible.
The site has been a Conservation area since 1974, and a Local Nature Reserve since 1992. In recent years St Mary’s has seen the development of a ‘Wetland Area’, with screen hides adjacent to the car park. The island is managed by North Tyneside Council however a Conservation Group was formed in 2015 to manage the Wetland Area. Access to the island itself is restricted to low tides.
St Mary’s is popular with coastal waders, especially in the winter and birds present can include Curlew, Dunlin, Knot, Oystercatcher, Purple Sandpiper, Redshank, Golden and Ringed Plover and Sandering. Some years Bar-tailed Godwits are also present.
Over the past few years, there have also been some records of visiting Whimbrel, Common and Curlew Sandpipers and American Golden Plovers.
Offshore, passing Shearwaters and Skua’s can be seen on passage during the summer/autumn, whilst Eiders and Fulmars are common. A telescope is recommended for sea watching, however most of St Mary’s birds can be easily observed with binoculars.
There are a couple of areas of Willow Trees, close to the car park, which have over the years, hosted, a wide range of migrants/vagrants in the spring/summer (especially Yellow-browed Warblers). These are often the first cover birds find after arriving on the mainland. Nearby, as you walk towards Hartley and Seaton Sluice, there are some mounds of shrubs, which are also popular with rare visitors and migrants.
Recent rarities have included a Bluethroat in 2013, a Red-backed Shrike in 2014 and a Pallas’s Warbler. Firecrest and Barred Warblers have been found in recent years.
A Lapland Bunting
Other birds to watch out for include Meadow, Rock and Water Pipits, Skylark, Lapland and Snow Bunting, Shore Lark and Twite.
NZ 353 755
There is free access to the coast and beaches. There is limited access for wheelchair users.
There are toilets in the car park. There are shops and cafes in the nearby town of Whitley Bay.
There is paid parking available.
Alternatively there is free parking available in Old Hartley, further up the coast. It is only a short walk from there to St Mary’s.
More information can be found at www.northtyneside.gov.uk