Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Birding Holywell with Holywell Birding, A Continuation.

Before the rain came.

From the members hide.

A swollen burn.

I’d been looking forward for a while to spending a few hours birding with Cain, so it was with some pleasure that when my eyes opened this morning I beheld sunlight! I’d gone to sleep last night with the sound of rain bouncing off the windows. When I poked my nose out of the front door I put my tee-shirt back in the draw and got the winter gear out, but you can’t have everything in this life, and at least it wasn’t raining…yet!

Our arrival in Holywell village was met by the sound of Skylark song, seeming a little odd in the low temperatures that seemed to be keeping even the usual House Sparrows close to their hedges. There was a lone Greylag Goose in the fields as we made for the members hide. That hide serves very well as a refrigerator. We discussed the advantages of adding central heating. To me, it seems that Holywell Pond has been quiet of birds since last autumn and Cain, whose knowledge of the area is far greater than mine, agrees. Ok, the pond has been frozen most of the winter, but even before the ice age began it had seemed quiet to me. Birds on the water today were Little Grebes, Cormorant, Mallard, Gadwall, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Coot and Moorhen. The occasional gull flew overhead along with single Lapwings and a couple of Grey Herons.

The feeding station was attracting numbers of Goldfinch, along with Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and a single Reed Bunting. Good views were had of a male Sparrowhawk as it manoeuvred between the trees in search of a Goldfinch lunch, although all of the birds escaped untouched and lunch was put on hold. The Little Grebes had not been easy to find and one of them had been calling from the reeds for sometime before it appeared. There are at least four of them at present. A Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed occasionally from the other side of the pond, and both Curlew and Pheasant were heard calling from the same area. A Chiffchaff was eventually heard (my first calling bird of the year) and Wrens were singing in there usually far carrying way. A Mistle Thrush sang near to the hide, confusing us initially, before flying off. Interestingly also known as the 'storm cock' as it is known to sing in stormy weather, which was certainly the case today! After a while we walked to the public hide. Now if the members hide is the refrigerator, this was definitely the freezer and we soon made a get away. We were stopped in our tracks by a flooded path but not before having a good sighting of a Skylark! Now I reckon Cain would have got through there quite easily in his waterproof boots, but the guy's a gent and I suspect he thought I might fall in, so we made a detour! Perhaps no bad thing that we did because we heard what sounded like several Red Legged Partridges as we headed to the dene area by this alternative route.

I was hoping for my first Nuthatch of the year in the dene but it wasn’t to be. Where have they all gone? I haven’t seen one in there for months nor have I seen the usual Nuthatch in Killingworth. The burn was a muddy torrent and in one spot would have been good for white water rafting. It had flooded some field at the sluice end and was full to the brim. I think this is the most water I have seen in the burn, but Cain assures me it does get much worse. There wasn’t too much around birdwise initially apart from tits,Wren, Dunnock , Blackbird, Jackdaws and Wood Pigeons, but then we found the male Kestrel. As we watched close by it dropped from he tree and caught a vole before flying off with its prey. A pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers was seen high in the trees and another single bird was spotted as were at least three or four Treecreepers. There were numbers of calling Chiffchaff and we had good sightings of some of these. Cain had watched the Grey Wagtails nest building a few days earlier and now that area was under water. We also guessed rightly that we wouldn’t see the Dipper today. Signs of real spring life were few and far between.
Earlier in the day we had been in sun but the threatening rain filled clouds were never far away and towards the end of the walk, just when I said it seemed that the rain cloud had blown over, the rain started and socked us before we got back to the village, having had to make another detour because of flooded footpaths. A great few hours with good birding and good chat. A good way to end March.

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