A touch of colour below the viaduct.
It might be raining, but the thought of lunch brings a smile.
20th Nov. A very different atmosphere today as I arrived at Winlaton Mill, but an atmosphere none the less. The rain had stopped, but looking towards the west there was low lying mist and it seemed that it wouldn’t be long before some rain fell again. There was to be showers throughout the four hour walk, but nothing that would put off anyone other than the most fair weather of birders. I was joined by another eleven keen and adventurous participants, which made for a nice round and friendly group. Two of us counted three Common Buzzards before anyone else arrived, all perched high on the tree line to the south. After a quick introduction we were off in the direction of the Nine Arch Viaduct.
I noticed that there were far fewer Jays showing on this occasion, but we did eventually see a couple and later heard at least one. The autumnal colours of October had been replaced by a more pastel like winter colour in the trees. Cormorant, Grey Heron and Mute Swan were all seen in flight and the lake held a female Goldeneye along with numerous Moorhens and Mallards. We found where the Butterfly Bridge (so called because the area is renowned for its butterflies) had been washed away in the 2008 floods, but an initial check for Dipper went unrewarded. Dipper was eventually seen. I’m told this area of the river is good for odonata. Goosanders were seen flying above the river and eventually at least one was seen by the group on the river. Long Tailed Tits were heard before being seen and Treecreeper appeared. Several quite large flocks of Siskin were seen both in flight and feeding. Goldfinches were spotted amongst these flocks. One or two participants spotted Bullfinch.
By the time we were up at the Red Kite viewing area near the viaduct the rain was coming down quite heavily and I began to think it unlikely that the kites would be seen. In fact we did eventually see three or four Red Kites, but not as closely as had been the case in October. A Sparrowhawk also flew overhead, and a flock of Redwings was seen. The odd Mistle Thrush was about. The rain meant that the planned lunch stop was delayed and we later ate lunch in the Thornley Woods visitor centre. Thanks go to the guy working in the centre.
Having made the dramatic crossing of the A694 (all survived) out side of the centre, we all visited the hide. Tits were numerous including many Coal Tits. A Nuthatch was eventually found and a Roe Deer seen crossing between the trees. The usual Grey Squirrels were numerous. It strikes me as odd that in some areas great efforts are made to dispatch Grey Squirrels, yet in other areas they are left alone. This doesn’t make sense to me! Maybe I’m being to simplistic. I do understand the idea of refuges for Red Squirrels, just don’t think it will work. As we sat in the hide the rain became heavier and it looked set to continue. We decided to move on and most took the quick route along the road back to Winlaton Mill. I was tempted to jump on the bus for Newcastle, but the rain stopped and I continued the walk as planned retracing some of my footsteps along the by now very muddy woodland trail. Mud and peace appealed to me far more than busy traffic and noise A couple of us saw the female Kestrel, looking a bit forlorn in a tree. Probably the same one I came eye to eye with in October.
During a horrendous journey home through the Metro Centre traffic jams, I at least had tomorrows birding to keep me focused, even if tomorrow may be another wet day. Another wet day birding would in any event beat shopping in the Metro Centre hands down. I was later sent info from one of these GPS fitness measurement devices. If correct we had walked almost five miles. It didn’t seem that far to me. However isn’t modern technology a wonder! :-)
I am now in possession of my 2011 Expedition Ardnamurchan callendar personally delivered by Holywell Birding. If you haven't got your copy best be quick before stocks run out. It'll be no good complaining later. It's very good.