Sunday, 24 January 2010

South of the Border Down Rainton Meadows Way!

Towards the end of the expedition!

Fungi found on walk. Jews Ear Auricula judae, I'm told (Thank's H B).

Yes I crossed the Tyne yesterday, 23rd Jan, and entered Durham. I was visiting an area that I didn’t know at all so I had some empathy with that guy in Conrad's, Heart of Darkness. I was blessed with luck when an elderly lady in Chester le Street pointed me in the right direction with the comment ‘isn’t it awful when you don’t know where you are?’ I hopped on the correct bus and was soon at my destination. I was rendezvousing with Andrew K (Foghorn) who had promised me during a Durham Bird Club trip that he would show me around his patch. This promise was made twelve months ago, so he having also promised to deliver so much, I was confident he would, he having taken twelve months to plan the expedition! ;-) On finding Andrew, I also found that he had developed a constant twitch, as well as having grown several inches, or had I shrunk I wondered. Anyway I found the change in height was not an optical illusion caused by him standing on the higher part of the pavement as when he moved I still had to look up. Anyway, we were soon off in the general direction of Rainton Meadows, or so I was told, and I soon realised my host’s birding knowledge had also grown over the past year. He must be mixing with the right type! It seemed to take a very long time to get to Rainton Meadows such was the nature of this expedition. Would it deliver the promises I wondered. The area certainly looked promising. I shall try to refer to many of the species found, but as Eric Morecombe might have said ‘they are the correct species, but not necessarily in the correct order!’

We were soon checking out large flocks of Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting in the hedges, and we were to come across many of these species today which was quite different from the small numbers I see on my own patch. Other birds seen in this general area included House Sparrow, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Linnet and Jay. The latter being a year tick for me. Other corvids and Wood Pigeons were ever present of course. Andrew got his eye on a Sparrowhawk which flew low into a hedge and there were numbers of Kestrel in the area.

I was soon realising this area had much to offer in habitat, including wide open spaces of farmland which seemed to include wild areas with ideal habitat for birds. One bird we did spend some time trying to track down was Jack Snipe. This led to some climbing of fences and jumping of streams, none of which I fell into, I’m proud to say. I realised I was going to get some exercise today if nothing else. We never did find Jack Snipe, but we did have several Common Snipe during the day, which gave me another year tick. That re-paid all of my efforts of walking along frozen ‘glassy’ pathways and through the pools of water and mud. Bullfinches appeared, and we found another party of them at the feeding station at Rainton Meadows. A Willow Tit gave out its very distinctive call and we got sightings of it. Another year tick. I remember the calls of Wren and the odd calls of Curlew, but it wasn’t until the end of our walk that we saw a flock of Curlew flying overhead. I got my eye on a flock of Lapwing and realised later that they had been flying over the pond at the reserve. We did find a few Redwing and a flock of seventy Fieldfares.

I was beginning to feel a bit peckish, but we had started out quite early so I was surprised to find it was only around 11.30am when we arrived at the reserve at Rainton Meadows. Andrew was hoping for a rare gull or two here (nowt like wishful thinking is there?), but I seem to re-call only Black Headed, Herring and Greater Black Backed Gulls. Did I miss Common Gull? There were a number of both Canada Geese and Greylag Geese in the area, a single Grey Heron, and on the water Mute Swan, Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Coot and Moorhen. The odd Pheasant was about. Now Andrew tells me the hide here is known as the coldest in Durham. Come on guys, its sheer luxury, although that wind was a bit cool! Anyway Andrew promised me warmth in the reserve centre for our lunch stop. Unfortunately it was closed so we had lunch at Joe’s Pond (I think). Not before having found flocks of Goldfinch and the odd Lesser Redpoll in amongst the alders. The Redpoll being another year tick for me.

It was interesting to find what I took to be Joes Pond still frozen. As we ate Lunch we were joined by Mallards, Dunnock and a friendly Robin looking for tit bits. We were soon off again, initially along more icy pathways, in an unsuccessful hunt for Jack Snipe. Never mind there were other birds to keep us happy. We came across some guys out shooting and they flushed out more Common Snipe and other birds.

Towards the end of the walk when the Curlews flew overhead and we found a few more Fieldfare and a Mistle Thrush, I began to wonder why I was feeling a wee bit tired, then I realised we had been walking six and a half hours with only a couple of short stops. Andrew has long legs relative to my short ones so I reckon I was using up the energy fast! We passed some Durham Bird Club members as we neared the end of the walk and we found Collared Dove. Andrew took a look for Mediterranean Gull as I lent against the bus stop. By this time I was kinda pleased he didn’t find it as I was stiffening up, but I did manage to get back home without falling asleep and I think even my host was beginning to feel tired, although I note he has recovered today and gone to find his Ring-Necked Duck. He’d received a txt about it whilst we were walking and I’m sure he was tempted to send me packing so he could go and tick it, but I’m not shaken off that easily.;-)
It had been a day of birding of the type I enjoy the most. A great day had been delivered! I make the count forty-eight species and that doesn’t include Chaffinch which I’m sure we must have seen, but my minds a blank on that one for some reason, nor does it include Common Gull which I’m not sure we saw to be honest. We had quite a few laughs along the way although I was on good behaviour as I want to go back. Thanks Andrew.


  1. I am glad you enjoyed the day. We had some good birds. Must say the ones you DIDN'T mention where the best ;).

    I am sorry about the twitch I developed, I will be getting a pager next time. It might annoy you as it will keep bleeping and I will be reading it in the middle of a conversation.

    Glad you had a good day and we shall have to do it again sometime soon. Not for a while like.....once a year will do fine ;) only joking.

    I will be sure to ring you if I think I have a Glaucous Gull and you need to correct me.

  2. Looks like you's had a good day :), The fungus looks like Jews Ear Auricula-judae.

  3. Andrew...Oh good grief, not a bleeping pager!!! Yes any problems with Glaucous Gulls, just let me know.;-)

    Cain...Thanks I'm sure your correct. I did think Jews Ear, but then found it didn't seem to match what I found on the internet, but yes I'm sure your right. Jews Ear is known to be able to tolerate very low temperatures and these ones certainly have.
    Cheers Brian