Sunday, 2 May 2010

A Quiet Start to May

Tunstall Reservoir
1st May. It was an RSPB Local Group trip to Wolsingham and Tunstall Reservoir today. I like this area and had been looking forward to the trip for sometime. It was cloudy and cold, but dry. Apologies to Sedgedunum Warbler, as I believe John thinks my blog is a little more exciting after I have had a good soaking! :-)

There was little in the way of birds in Wolsingham village but a couple of us got our eye, although not a good sighting, of what we were sure was a Goldcrest flitting from tree to tree and I seem to remember it was here that we had the first of only a small number of Swifts seen today. On the journey we had ticked Kittiwake as we crossed the Tyne, and found a Kestrel. The only Lapwings of the day were also seen on the journey, in small numbers.

As we started the walk towards Tunstall Reservoir, I realised it was going to be cold! It has to be said that the bird life was sparse on the higher ground. There was little song other than Willow Warblers, Chaffinch and Wren. I did hear the occasional Curlew, but it wasn’t until towards the end of the days walk that I actually saw a few. There were no raptors in the air at all, and I assume no thermals to encourage the Common Buzzards which we had thought probable. A few members did hear Common Buzzard mewing at our lunch stop. The bloodied remains of a female Pheasant were found and the consensus was that it had been taken by a Sparrowhawk.

Tom got his eye on Wheatears quite high up on the fell and we were able to point out these to a few members. In fact, I even managed to point out a male bird which turned into a bit of slate coloured stone. I did admit my error, if only reluctantly and once I’d been found out! It was rather amusing that when we caught up to the rest of the group we were being hushed and pointed in the direction of Wheatears. I refrained from telling this group that Tom had found some that they had missed, on higher ground, about fifteen minutes previously. The birds I was picking up were all females, but I’m told there were several males too!

As we began to get closer to the woodland one or two people heard Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen, initially on the ground, as we were trying to find an elusive Mistle Thrush. Three or four other Mistle Thrushes were found feeding in a field a little later. Grey Heron was seen in flight as were Black Headed Gulls. There were a number of flocks of racing pigeon in the area and we wondered if these had just been released. Meadow Pipits were seen as we were watching the Wheatears. One of several Coal Tits was seen at the lunch stop.

We were soon down into the woods at Tunstall Reservoir. I enjoy the walk through these woods and have usually been lucky with the target birds of today which were Redstart, Pied flycatcher and Wood Warbler. We found none of these species today and we began to wonder if in fact we were a little early. We did find a rather rude motorist who felt the need to blast his horn at length as we entered the woods, even though it was quite obvious everyone had heard the car coming and were clearing the narrow road. He then felt the need to stop, wind his window down and pass a comment about people standing on both sides of the road, when in fact it was quite obvious that there was enough room for him to drive straight through, a fact that he acknowledged was correct when I told him so. Perhaps he owned the area, or at least thought he did, or was perhaps just having a bad day! It’s certainly not only in towns where you find rudeness, that’s for sure!

The first bird we saw in numbers was the Nuthatches. I think a few people were amazed at just how many there were. Treecreepers were about too and Willow Warblers were numerous too. Some of us only heard one Chiffchaff during the day. The usual commoner woodland birds were seen and at least three Jays were heard and seen very briefly before they flew deeper into the woodland. The song of Song Thrush was heard througout the woods. I didn’t on this occasion find the usual Common Sandpiper but some others did. Oystercatcher was heard flying down the reservoir, and seen by some. A Grey Wagtail was seen at some point by a few members.

We had seen and heard Greylag Geese flying over and found some more towards the end of the walk along with Mute Swan. Brown Hares were found in the fields and two Roe Deer were seen in the woodland. Some members had heard an owl calling, but were unsure of the species. There was a small flock of Goldfinch at the edge of the woodland, but the Siskin was never confirmed.
It had been an enjoyable and invigorating walk despite the disappointment of not finding any of the most sought after target species. We did end the walk a little earlier than expected which may have reflected the quietness of the bird life. At least it had seemed very quiet to me. Even so, having added House Martin, plus a very brief sighting of Red Kite on the return journey at Rowlands Gill, we did end up with a bird count of fifty-six. There’s plenty of time to find the Redstarts et al!

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