Friday, 1 May 2009

Redstarts and Flycatchers

Wood Sorrel (pink variety)
Golden Saxifrage


30th April. As I waited for the bus I came across my first Swift of the year flying over Killingworth Lake. I didn’t have time for further investigation.

29th April. Today, well half of today, was spent south of the Tyne at Tunstall Reservoir with a brief stop at Muggleswick. I always enjoy the walk around the reservoir and through the oak woodland even though I generally find the area either windy and cold, or just plain cold! Today it was cold, at least at the start of the walk, but soon warmed up. I had three species of bird in mind today, Redstart, Pied Flycatcher and Wood Warbler.

On the journey down we had come across a Kestrel, which seem in my mind to becoming a rarity in places. We spoke to a birder just before entering the woods and he confirmed at least one pair of Redstarts were about and explained where he had seen them. Little was seen from the wall of the reservoir apart from a Pied Wagtail and a couple of Goldfinch. Oh yes and two Mute Swans flew overhead along with a number of Greylag Geese. Taking a walk to the area the other guy had mentioned I found little but Swallows flying around the fields plus the song of countless Willow Warblers which was to remain with us as we walked through the woodland. A pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers seemed to greet us as we entered the oak woodland area and I eventually lost count of the number of Treecreepers. It wasn’t to long before a pair of Redstarts was found and they gave great views as they flitted through the trees on occasions perching for short spells. I reckon the Redstart qualifies for the term exotic! After watching at length lunch was taken before walking the circle around the reservoir. Another male Redstart was found and confirmed to be one of another pair when we encountered the other pair again further along the pathway. Other birds included Great tit, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Chaffinch, calling Pheasants and a singing Mistle Thrush.

At the far end of the Reservoir I found my first Common Sandpiper of the year, Grey Heron and more Greylag Geese, one pair accompanied by 4 youngsters. Much of the woodland floor had been covered by Wood Sorrel Oxalis acetosella. This has to be one of my favourite plants such is the delicate flower and wonderfully shaped trefoil leaf. I think their appeal is also that they are often seen in half light at the foot of trees on moss or tree mulch. I found a small patch of the pink variety which is not, as far as I’m aware, very common. Other plants included Primrose Primula vulgaris, Golden Saxifrage Chrsosplenium oppositifolium, Garlic Mustard Alliaria petiolata and Dog’s Mercury Mercurialis perennis and Violet species.

There had been no sign of the hoped for Pied Flycatchers and Wood Warblers. We made off for a quick visit to Muggleswick and to an area where we had seen both these species in previous years. I caught sight of an Orange Tip Butterfly on the journey. I learnt it best to remember to follow the correct path on the walk here, as I suddenly found myself on a rather narrow and slippery area with a long drop below into the river. I don’t like heights at the best of times and could not remember this situation in the past so quickly got back onto the correct path, which itself is not an easy one to follow and negotiate. I am pleased to say the effort was rewarded with great sightings of a pair of Pied Flycatchers.

Chiffchaffs called here, but I picked up no calls from Wood Warblers. I did at one point think I had struck lucky finding a warbler in the trees which seemed to have the more obvious yellow colouring of the Wood Warbler. I didn’t see it well enough with the sun in my eyes so I have put it down as a Chiffchaff and wishful thinking. I did catch sight of a Tawny Owl flying on the edge of the woodland and a Sparrowhawk. As I walked back out of the wood I found a small patch of Cuckooflower Cardamine pratensis and Speckled Wood Butterfly.
So I was happy to settle for two out of three of my target birds today.

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