Saturday, 2 January 2010

The Magnificent Seven

Three of the Magnificent Four await their medal.
Despite earlier doubts my local walk on patch went ahead today and seven magnificent people participated including, I’m happy to say, Brian R. It’s a good job I got out of bed this morning. Conditions were far from ideal, but we made the most of it and despite at times a biting wind cropping up, snow stinging the eyes and bins steaming up, during most of the walk it wasn’t too bad at all.

We started by repeating my walk of yesterday around the frozen lake. Goldeneye (two female and a male) and a single female Goosander which took to the air as we watched were additions to the birds seen yesterday. The other birds were Mute Swan, Canada Geese, Greylag Geese (2), Mallard, Pochard (2), Tufted Duck, Coot, Moorhen, Black Headed Gull, Common Gull and Herring Gull. We spotted a juvenile Mute Swan which appeared to be stuck in the ice, but once we got near it we found that it was simply weak and exhausted. Unsuccessful attempts were being made to break the ice around it to allow it to reach water, but this had proven impossible such was the thickness and strength of the ice. Someone called the RSPCA and I hope the swan was rescued, but in my mind it looked in a real bad way so I’m none too hopeful. You would have to be pretty hard not to find such situations distressing I reckon.

The walk continued passed the snow covered lakes and across the fields to the village area with little in the way of birds to be seen apart from Mistle Thrush. Of course there were numerous flocks of Wood Pigeon and Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook and Carrion Crow were with us throughout the walk. A small number of Redwings were seen in the village. Now how did I miss those? Otherwise it was Blackbird, Robin and Wren. A usually quite productive area to the rear of the village was dead. I adopted my usual approach at this point and began to tell people what I often seen on better days and assume they believe me. We did find the odd Pheasant. There were no winter thrushes in the fields. At this point the magnificent seven became the magnificent four as some participants gave up in the wind and snow shower.

I wasn’t enjoying this wind too much myself, but happily we were soon out of it and the rest of the walk except for a very short spell was completed in rather calm and sheltered conditions. A short diversion down the track brought us nothing of interest. I did mention it was a good area for Bullfinch and thankfully one turned up on que. As we made for the waggonyways a flock of 15 Goosanders flew overhead making up for having seen only one on the lake.

Walking along the waggonway was also non productive and I could only dream of last years sightings of Short Eared Owls here. As we knew the flash would be frozen we retraced our steps and made back towards Killingworth centre. A lack of birds made for some chat and a few laughs and a sudden interest in Wood Pigeons as we remarked on their attractiveness. Collared Doves were seen on a few occasions. The bird list was slowly growing however and there was growing numbers of Great Tit and Blue Tit. Near the farm we found a few Fieldfare in the hedgerow and this time a pair of Bullfinches. A little further on a couple of Song Thrushes were found and growing numbers of tits, Chaffinch and Greenfinch with the odd House Sparrow and Dunnock. In relative terms this was quite a birding hot spot for the day and a good way to bring our walk to a close. I took a photo of three of the magnificent four. I’m behind the camera of course! We ended the day with a list of 35 species and I mustn’t forget the Stoat that ran across out path. I had enjoyed my few hours out and it was so calm now I was able to have a cuppa from the flask. Everyone seemed content as we parted company. Thanks to those who came out in such conditions. Medals are in the post for those who completed the course!

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