Midsummer moorland meanderings, another alliteration; North Pennines 27/06/2014

by on Jul.02, 2014, under Birdwatching, North Pennines, Northumberland

I collected Peter for his third day out with NEWT and we headed southwest towards the big hills of the North Pennines.

Midsummer on the moors is a very different prospect to the spring and early summer.  Common Snipe, Curlew, Redshank, Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Golden Plover are all still there, but occasional calls are the norm, rather than the all-enveloping soundscape of March and April.  Black Grouse have, in the main, finished displaying but can still be found furtively creeping between clumps of rush, and the condensed growing season for plants in the often brutal environment of exposed areas so high above sea level means that some of the most sought-after species aren’t in flower by the time we reach the end of June.

What midsummer does bring though is chicks, and photo opportunities 🙂  Young Curlew, fluffy, short-billed replicas of their parents, were pottering about, and apparently intent on not letting Peter get his camera focused on them, Red Grouse with their large broods, including one pair with chicks picking grit from the roadside, seemingly oblivious to our presence, and Golden Plover, watching us from raised tussocks in the heather as their young prodded and poked around the vegetation nearby.  A Blackcock, now showing signs of moult and no longer the strutting dandy of the lekking season, wandered across a rushy field and, after a day in the hills, probably my own favourite moment of the day came as a Common Snipe perched on the apex of a dead tree and Peter patiently waited for it to turn its head to one side so that he could capture the extraordinary length of the bill.  The bird obliged, of course 🙂

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