2nd Nov. As I tried to get across to Newcastle Central Station with traffic piling up as far back as Gosforth Park, I soon realised that the police helicopter was in the sky for a purpose and it wasn’t there to wave me off! I understand a body had been found in the early hours, and it wasn’t long before I was being told that a stabbing had occurred. Chinese whispers are dangerous things, and of course no such thing had happened. I finally managed to arrive in time for my train into the Tyne Valley, in fact I had forty minutes to spare having checked times on the internet which had clearly not been up to date. Think I may just use the old fashioned telephone the next time.
I’ve been traveling along the Tyne Valley by train since I was a babe in arms. Thankfully the line avoided Dr Beecham’s (he was a doctor I seem to recall, or am I getting confused with Beecham’s powders?) axe in the sixties and is still going strong, although some of the branch lines from it are long gone. Oddly enough I boarded the train from the platform I used to use as a boy and that I have not done for many years. It got me reminiscing as the rain ran down the coach windowpanes. Some would have us believe that everything in the past was rosy and that the grass was always greener and that the sun always shone. Perhaps the sun ‘always shines on TV’ but I can confirm that it didn’t always shine on my youthful head. I have a friend who is a bit of a steam engine buff and looks back on them with wonder. I simply remember noise, smoke, unpleasant smells and slow journeys. Mind you today’s journey was very slow and the carriages dirty. A sign of things to come perhaps, in our debt ridden society, although it has to be said I did reach my destination safely. However, much has improved in the environment since my boyhood and when the sun does shine you don’t usually have to peer through smoke to see it, and the Tyne itself is no longer the filthy health hazard of years gone by, witnessed by the common sightings of Otters and the numbers of Salmon in the river. Ok, bird numbers for many species are down now, but even that isn’t true for every species. Pessimism about wildlife can be off putting for those just showing an interest and whilst we must be realistic, I think we should also be positive.
As I say I’ve passed through this area on numerous occasions and looked out of the train windows, but I have rarely done much walking in the area as I've tended to only 'bird' from the train. Today was to be different and I got off at Wylam station looking forward to exploring a walk.with a couple of friends from the Local Group who live in the area.
The sun was timed perfectly to welcome me as the rained stopped. We were to have clear skies and sun until the end of the walk when the rain began again. We walked through some interesting habitat where autumn colours were showing very vividly and berries were numerous. We were soon finding the likes of Redwing, Song Thrush, Redpoll, Siskin, Goldfinch and Bullfinch. We spotted two Red Kites fly over the river from north Bank to south. Now you would not have seen them when I was a youngster. Other birds along the pathways included tits, amongst them a sizable party of Long Tailed Tits, and Treecreeper.
On the river were numbers of Goosander and one or two Grey Herons. The first Grey Heron I saw looked almost as if it was a garden statue, but it wasn’t. I definitely heard the mew of a Common Buzzard, but didn’t see it. When I looked I saw only corvids. Another Red Kite was seen, possibly being one of the earlier birds that had been sighted. A few Cormorants flew up river and Mallard was seen on the small pond in an area I felt look well worth keeping an eye on.
As we made the return walk back towards Wylam centre, a brief but good sighting of a pair of Kingfishers was had. They quickly circled into the thick herbage not to be seen again, but at least one of them giving a really good view of upper and lower plumage. A little further along a pair of Dippers was found. I was with at least one person who knew this area well and it underlined the benefits of watching a local patch on a regular basis.
Thirty-four species were seen on the walk, a walk I intend to repeat and lead next spring, before we broke for a very pleasant lunch over looking the bird feeders, during which the rain restarted. I noticed my friends have a massive water pistol. I have one on my shopping list so the neighbours cats best be warned! By the time I was back in the city, having passed Mute Swans and numerous gulls during the journey, it was dark and pouring down.
3rd Nov. The Hedgehog has been feeding on the lawn. It seemed to enjoy the haddock that I had purchased from Morrison's and which I thought was of a disgusting flavour. Don’t worry, there were no bones in it!