Friday, 19 June 2009

Forest and Moor.


18th June. Well the weather looked un-promising, but the rain had kept off, so we decided to set off for Slaley Forest. By the time we were approaching Riding Mill we were under blue skies and in the sun, as the threatening cloud move eastwards. About this stage of the journey 2 Common Buzzards and 2 Kestrels were spotted. There was nothing else of real note seen apart from Swallows, Swifts, Lapwing and a Pied Wagtail. Things were looking promising and as we approached our destination 2 Brown Hares were spotted and the usual numbers of Rabbits of all shapes and sizes. When I stepped out of the car the cold air hit me as did a strong breeze so it was going to be far from ideal conditions to find our target bird, the Nightjar. Never mind, it was a fresh and clear night so I intended to make the best of it.

The Green Woodpeckers weren’t in the area where I have found them in recent years and the initial part of the walk was quite birdless apart from a lone Curlew flying overhead and singing Willow Warbler, Chaffinches and Blackbirds. There were numbers of Black Headed Gulls over the moor land and I mustn’t forget the male Stonechat and Meadow Pipits. At this point as we turned left to walk along the edge of the forest and moor we came across 2 guys on trial bikes, who had been using the tracks as a ‘track’. Wonderful I thought to myself! I give up hope of finding much about whilst these two were here, but thankfully they seemed to get bored quickly and left us in peace. I’ve since added trial bikers to my ever growing list of things I would ban!

Having decided that we were going to have a quite night in more ways than one we retraced our steps and decided to try the area of moor land nearby the quarry that has been quite productive in the past. Initially we found only numbers of Meadow Pipits and then I heard Golden Plover calling and saw a Woodcock lift and fly over the Quarry. The lone Golden Plover was spotted in the heather and soon afterward more were heard calling. As some of them lifted it appeared that they were trying to see off Black Headed Gulls. We reckon we saw 8+ Golden Plover in the area. Soon afterward 2 Red Grouse were found as they lifted.

We eventually decided to head back to the car to warm up and have a coffee before heading back out again. It was around this point a Roe Deer was seen on the track, seemingly not too concerned about our appearance, but keeping a close eye on us all of the same before disappearing into the forest. As we set off again the evening was still clear and quite light. We made for a clearing on the edge of the forest and then decided to walk to the point where I had always been successful in finding Nightjars. Success was not forthcoming on this occasion, but we did hear them churring in the distance despite the wind and we heard and saw a number of Roding Woodcock. It was beginning to turn darker now so we made back to the initial clearing with more Woodcock overhead. Chiffchaff and Song Thrush sang and a Mistle Thrush appeared to be carrying food to young.

We never did see any Nightjars, but on this occasion I’ll settle for hearing them. There were few insects on the wing in the cold breeze so at least I had not been bitten as is usual on such visits. I’ll have to make a return. That is to see the Nightjars, not to be bitten! Before we left we did have a good sighting of a screeching Tawny Owl as it flew across the moor towards the quarry and we found another Roe Deer on the track. Another Tawny Owl called from some way distant.
It was well past 11.00 when we left and the clear sky meant it was still quite light as we drove out of the forest area towards home. I was back just before the clock hit midnight and it didn’t take me long to get off to sleep! It had been a good evening.

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