Tag: Crossbill

Shining in the gloom

by on Mar.17, 2012, under Birdwatching, Kielder, Northumberland

The most memorable wildlife on a tour with clients can come in many forms; it may be the common, the uncommon, the localised, or just the way that it fits in its habitat, and the landscape and weather blend it in to the experience.

I arrived at Hexham railway station to find Steve and Jill already there, and a few minutes later Catherine arrived on the train from Windermere (via a few changes!).  We headed northwest along the North Tyne valley for a day birdwatching around Kielder and the borders and, just before Bellingham we left the road and headed along the forest tracks.  A fine drizzle was falling as we found our first Crossbills of the day.  By the time we returned to the C200 (and civilisation!) 2 hours later, we’d had lots of sightings of small groups and family parties.  Perching on the tops of small spruce trees, flying over and giving that distinctive ‘chip, chip’ call, Crossbills are always a delight to watch.  The stunning luminosity of the males carmine red rump is incredibly striking, particularly in the gloom and drizzle of the border forests when everything else seems to be monochrome.  Kestrels and Common Buzzards were soaring around, Curlews and Lapwings were sitting in fields between the sheep, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits flushed from the track sides and Siskins almost rivalled the Crossbills with some stunning adult males demonstrating how a quite common bird can still take your breath away when you look closely at it.

By early afternoon the cloud level had dropped to somewhere below the altitude we were at and, as we crossed a remote moorland road with the icy cold wind whistling  eerily around us, driving waves of rain horizontally across the fells, Steve spotted a grouse at the roadside.  From our position I couldn’t see the bird, but Catherine, sitting in the back of the car, was able to photograph what I assumed would be a Red Grouse.  Then it flew…revealing the white wing-bars of an adult Blackcock!  That’s a species we’ve watched and photographed with clients in the North Pennines, but not one that we’ve ever recorded on a Kielder Safari.  Important lesson, that one; expect the unexpected 🙂

One of our commonest species provided one of the highlights of the day;  hundreds of male Chaffinches were swarming around feeding stations and, at one point, we had 3 sitting on the roof of the car, 2 on the wing mirrors and 2 in the boot!  With Blue, Great and Coal Tits, Greenfinches, more Siskins, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatches the feeders were a blur of activity.

As we headed back down the valley at the end of the day, a flock of Redwings and Fieldfares flew from a nearby field and filled the air above us, a pair of Mandarins flew upriver, calling, and we left Kielder behind to return to the bustling metropolis of Hexham 🙂

2 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , more...

(Man-made) Wilderness

by on Apr.06, 2011, under Kielder, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

On Saturday I had the pleasure of guiding a visit to Kielder (I still can’t bring myself to write Kielder Water and Forest Park…) for a group of Landscape Architecture students from the University of Michigan.

After collecting the group from Saughy Rigg (which will be the base for our ‘Autumn Colours’ photography holiday and ‘Winter Wonderland’ birdwatching holiday later this year) we headed up the North Tyne valley and began our tour of Kielder at the dam wall.  With a stiff breeze blowing down the valley, we had a walk that would blow away any cobwebs.  As I described the 2 extraordinary achievements that were the planting of the forest and the creation of the reservoir we watched Oystercatchers  and Chaffinches and saw Crossbills and Siskins flying overhead.  Coal Tits and Goldcrests were calling from the trees and the students enjoyed looking at some of the sculptures around the lake.

I devised a route back to Saughy Rigg that took in some open heather moorland, so that the group would have a good idea of what the Kielder area would have been like prior to the planting.  Over that moorland we watched Curlews mobbing a Common Buzzard, and Lapwings were engaging in their apparently chaotic display flight.

After returning the group to Saughy Rigg, I drove eastwards, back towards southeast Northumberland, still birdwatching;  just a few miles from home a flock of 150 Fieldfares were a reminder that winter is only just behind us, contrasting with the Chiffchaff that was singing in our garden.

Our Kielder Safaris this year will again include driving along tracks that are ‘off-limits’ to the public.  With excellent views of Goshawk, Roe Deer and Red Fox along those tracks last year, and a real sense that you’re in a wilderness, it’s a very different wildlife experience.  We’ve got a few spaces left, so give us a call and join us on a Safari through the forest.

Comments Off on (Man-made) Wilderness :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Early morning – Choppington Woods

by on Feb.08, 2011, under Choppington Woods

Early morning, and the ground underfoot varies from frozen crunchy to treacherously boggy.  The sky overhead is a deep blue, the first rays of sunlight yet to bathe the fields, hedgerows and woodland in that magical golden glow. Clattering wings herald the departure of nearly 1000 Woodpigeons from their overnight roost, and a Blackbird rustles through the vegetation in the hedge bottom.  A menacing shape carves through the air just above the treetops; the menacing flap-flap-glide of our local male Sparrowhawk, beating the bounds of his territory in search of the wintering flocks of Siskins, Redpolls, Crossbills, Chaffinches and Bramblings.  The pungent scent of a Red Fox marks an area that I’ll want to stake out with my camera on another day, and as I head back towards home a Roe Deer springs across the path just a few metres ahead of me and disappears into the plantation just behind our house.  An excellent way to prepare for the day ahead 🙂

4 Comments :, , , , , , , , , more...

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!

Archives

All entries, chronologically...