Wednesday, 16 September 2009

My Kingdom for a Horse!

14th Sept. Another bus ride, but this time a short one to Backworth. A walk around to the flash area took in a short walk along the wagon way next to the rail tracks. With the sound of the dogs’ choir howling in unison in the kennels, I found only Robins. It felt quite spooky walking under the rail line with the sound of the ‘Hounds of the Baskerville’ in the background, and I can tell you I won’t be going there alone in the dark!

The flash appeared to be dry although the field was waterlogged almost up to the road. The area seemed dead of any life apart from a lone Curlew as it called on take off and the odd wader, Redshank I think, that lifted. I suspected that there were numerous birds hidden in the grass and sedges but nothing else appeared. Otherwise it was Wood Pigeons and more Wood Pigeons with the Magpies! Plenty of horses though. We walked along another wagon way towards Earsdon and in fact almost reached Earsdon before turning around and coming back via the roadway. There was little to be seen from the wagon way although where the new track has been built up (a cycle track I assume) we found a flock of Linnets that must have been approaching one hundred. I couldn’t see any other species amongst them, but they were restless and not easily watched. There were more horses, and in the field with them were half a dozen Pied Wagtails and three Meadow Pipits.

We stopped for a drink along the road way and watched Swallows and House Martins and many more horses! One of the highlights of the day was further along the road watching a dual between a Jackdaw and a Kestrel. The Kestrel had landed in the field having been mobbed by corvids. This one Jackdaw was determined to have another go and landed next to the Kestrel and appeared to just stare it out. As the Kestrel flew so did the Jackdaw and for a couple of minutes they flew together and manoeuvred in the air like fighter planes, their wings almost flattening out against one another’s. The Jackdaw matching the Kestrel for manoeuvrability (thank goodness for spell check!). It was quite a sight and I reckon would have been marked nine out of ten for technical merit on TV. Then it was back to deadness apart from more horses. Back in Killy we visited the lake and found the Great Crested Grebe and a single Ruddy Duck amongst the usual Mute Swans, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Coot and Moorhen. It had been a cold dismal and damp day so far, so a warm meal at Morrison’s was a joy, apart from the chips which were so disgusting I had to leave them on the plate and the peas which were cold. Actually, now I think about it. It’s not a bit of wonder I was hungry by supper time. Afterwards we set off along the wagon way towards Holystone and The Rising Sun Country Park. Again there were few birds about. As I pointed out areas of interest to my friend I’m sure he was wondering if in fact I do ever see anything along this wagon way. A flyover by Mistle Thrush was about the as hot as it got. We did see many more horse though and one in the stables appeared to be a thorough-bred race horse.

I was flagging as we reached the Rising Sun. It has to be said there wasn’t too much life there either although I found Shoveller, Little Grebe, Herring Gull and Lesser Black Backed Gull on Swallow Pond. We’d actually came here for a walk with Friends of The Rising Sun which was to be led by ex-miners and filmed for historical purposes. We found we had to get ourselves to the organic farm for the start. Well to cut along story short lots of ‘friends’, the cameraman and a couple of guys in suits turned up. In fact it seemed everyone turned up except the ex-miners who were to lead the walk! Apparently one had gone on holiday and another had realised it was his wedding anniversary and taken his wife out for a meal! The leader of the ‘friends’ decided to make the most of it and take the group around. We initially visited the ‘powder house’ although it seems no one is absolutely sure if this was or wasn’t the place used to store explosive used in the pits. It could have been a well built coalhouse for all I know. Although I find this area historically very interesting, at this point my friend and I decided to leave this particular walk and return along the wagon ways to Killy and take a look for owls. So as we passed the stable we said goodbye to more horses. I feel the area off the wagon way is an ideal site for Barn Owl. However like the ex-miners, no owls of any description showed up! We did pass more stables again near Holystone and by now the horses were nodding off and I don’t mind admitting I was too. We had to make do with Wrens instead of owls.

It was pitch black by the time we reached the end point and I was cream crackered. I had watched Stephen Fry on TV visiting the Mountain Gorillas in Uganda earlier in the week. A very good programme and I fancy going there. If Stephen Fry with all his extra weight can do the trek to the ‘impenetrable forest’ I’m damn sure I could make it. So I’m putting today down as my first training day. All I need now is a bit more training and some cash! Whilst I dream of Mountain Gorillas and sailing on Lake Victoria I shall content myself with the forty-three species of bird I picked up on my training exercise today, and let’s not forget the horses. I must admit I never knew so many of the equine species where around in North Tyneside. They seem to provide employment for a good number of people, mainly youngsters we found working in the stables and leading the horses. After the miles I walked yesterday I’m wondering if I should purchase a horse. That racehorse I saw would suit me fine. I’m already thinking up some really good ‘horseman like’ blog titles.

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