Substitute

by on Apr.23, 2012, under Birdwatching, Cheviot Valleys, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

There are times when you can visit the same location on successive days and see exactly the same wildlife, other times something you saw the day before has moved on but there’s compensation in the form of something unexpected…

I collected Julie and David from The Swan and we set off for day of bespoke birdwatching, combining the best of our uplands with the post-industrial birdwatching wonders of southeast Northumberland.  As we headed inland towards the Cheviot valleys the spectacular scenery (not for the first time) elicited a number of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the passenger seats of the car. Crossing the ford where the Harthope Burn becomes the Wooler Water we enjoyed very close views of those two riverine specialists, Dipper and Grey Wagtail.  I’m enthusiastic about most, if not all, birds but male Grey Wagtails are truly stunning birds, and one that often holds our clients entranced for extended periods of time.  We continued along the valley, and set off to walk up a narrow valley leading up into the hills from the main valley.  Red Grouse were cackling all around us, flying from one side of the valley to the other and occasionally perching in full view, imperiously staring at us as we followed the burn their territories.  A female Ring Ouzel flew down the valley, over our heads and away to a distant clump of trees, a pair of Sparrowhawks displayed ahead of us, and we stopped for lunch.  Our post-lunch walk was another spectacular one.  This time in a steep-sided valley, with Peregrines, Kestrels, Common Buzzards and Ravens soaring overhead, Mistle Thrushes carrying food to hungry nestlings and the song of a male Ring Ouzel carrying on the strengthening breeze.  An icy April shower added to the wild, remote feel of the valley and we headed back downhill into glorious sunshine.  Our assemblage of raptors (including the honorary member – the Raven) didn’t feature the Osprey I’d seen the day before, but we did have a real bonus bird…one of the things about birding in narrow steep-sided valleys is that birds appear very unexpectedly, and on this occasion it was the enigmatic ‘Phantom of the Forest’ as a male Goshawk broke the skyline in front of us and beat his way powerfully across the moors.

The second half of the day was spent on the Northumberland coast, finishing close to home around Druridge Bay.  The Common Eiders we found were greatly appreciated and the tour of NEWT’s ‘local patch’ produced a number of highlights with Marsh Harrier, Little Ringed Plover, Avocet, Pintail and Red-breasted Merganser all going down particularly well but, perhaps, the bird of the day was a Short-eared Owl that perched on a roadside fencepost and watched us just as intently as we were watching it; piercing yellow eyes holding us all enthralled as we completed a long day of birdwatching that seemed to be over too soon.  Isn’t that always the way 😉

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