18th Nov. I decided to take a walk along the wagon-way today. No sooner did I get out and the light began to go, but I kept going and did the full circle coming back via the village. I must admit I had been tempted to turn back fairly early on the walk as there appeared to be little about.
Blackbirds were everywhere today. An influx from Scandinavia perhaps. In the hedge, some distance away from, but running perpendicular to the wagon-way, I spotted Redwings, but in no great number. This stretch of the wagon-way brought little else than corvids, gulls, Greenfinches and House Sparrows. I got speaking to a guy who realised I was watching birds, the binoculars being a bit of a give away. He told me he had seen a woodpecker in the trees at the end of the path and gave a good description of a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Apparently he has been watching woodpeckers nesting in the area for two or three years. I seem to remember seeing one of these birds in this particular area, but it isn’t where I would usually expect them.
By the time I was on the Holystone end of the wagon-way it was feeling bitterly cold and cloud was making for darkness. It was only 15:10! I think I would have given up at this point, but I got my eye on a Common Buzzard in the distance flying over Backworth. A few minutes later a pair of Kestrels were flying closely together, high over my head. One eventually seemed to head off eastwards towards the coast and the other flew down to land behind the hedge on the opposite side of the field.
On my return I noticed that the stubble was doing a good job of hiding at least four Pheasants, whilst another wandered along by the hedge. In with the Pheasants were Magpies, Wood Pigeon and a small flock of Linnet. When I took my eye off them I found that the Common Buzzard (I assume the same one from earlier) had flown nearer and was above the field adjacent to the wagon-way. It eventually landed on a pylon and looked very insignificant as it sat high up on one of the girders. Flocks of corvids were now flying towards Gosforth Park to roost, not doubt via their stopping off point at West Moor. These flocks can be quite a sight in winter. My eye was taken by black dots further away toward the coast. The dots looked as though someone had placed lots of tiny black spots onto the darkening sky. Looking through the binoculars I found that the spots were in fact very large flocks of circling gulls stretching across the sky, over what I guessed was near the tide-line. In the east the sky was a mixed colour of blues, yellows and mauve, but behind me in the west it was simply a dull grey. Another flock of corvids flew across in front of the gulls. I heard a sprinkle of light rain hit my coat and then felt the lightest of showers on my face. It came to nothing, but I thought it best to head for home. I had my hat and gloves on by now and thought a power walk was in order so as I could warm up. Well OK, power might be a slight exaggeration, so let’s just say faster than normal! For much of the walk home my only company was a field full of Rooks and car headlights.
Having watched the Squacco Heron last week I was saddened to hear of its demise, although not altogether surprised as this must happen to many of these birds which are outside of their normal range. I have to say, I saw no sign of the bird being pushed too hard when I was up there, although there were few people about so what the weekend brought I don’t know. I did read a very good overview posted on Bird Forum (I don’t look in often these days) as to why the drop in temperature and water levels are likely to have effected feeding and thus probably brought about the bird’s demise. I think I would certainly go along with that explanation.
Most things about fieldcraft have been said so no point in adding anything really, although in any event, I have no real idea if fieldcraft. or lack of it, had any part to play in this incident.. Fieldcraft has to be learned however, and it is those who should have learned it and know better that I have little time for, and I’m sure some of them consider themselves experienced birders! Selfish motives often send common sense out of the window of course. The world has more than a fair share of selfish people, so no doubt some of them call themselves bird watchers. It would be a sad day indeed if bird watching became seen to be an elitist occupation, with only those who feel entitled to know about the whereabouts of birds sharing such information with each other. Education and challenging unacceptable behavior is the only way forward, so that everyone can enjoy a great pastime in the way that suits them best.