20th March. Tom and I were to meet Derek Y quite early this morning and travel up to Kielder. Originally this was to be with NTBC, but they had apparently decided to go on Saturday instead, a date we couldn’t make. Tom had found the juvenile Whooper Swan on the lake, so as we had a few minutes to spare we took a walk back down to have a look. Along with the Whooper Swan was the usual selection of birds and I was pleased to see that the pair of Great Crested Grebe are now united on the small lake. The day list had started well. The morning could almost pass as the first day of spring too. Little did we know what we were to face later!
As we journeyed to Kielder the first Common Buzzards was seen along with, in the main gulls, corvids and pigeons. The clouds seemed to be turning rather darker and descending as we approached Kielder. Unfortunately there now doesn’t appear to be anywhere to park near to the river, so our first stop was made to over look the reservoir and the hills hoping for a sightings of raptors, and in particular Goshawk. By now the mist was low on the hills and not giving good conditions for a raptor watch. Not to worry we thought as, we did tick off Crossbill and Sand Martins at this point. Other birds sighted included Goldeneye and a distant Pied Wagtail. I remember that we heard Song Thrush singing, but I can’t remember for the life of me if it was at this stop.
The Deadwater Fell area brought us another Common Buzzard. This time close to the road, as we rather optimistically watched the fell for signs of raptors. Conditions seemed to be worsening as Tom and I took a walk into Scotland! I’d left my camera in the car so couldn’t capture this event, although I’m sure we’ll be back.:-) Curlews were in the area as were numbers of Meadow Pipits and Skylarks in song.
Then it was up onto the forest trail road. Once out of the car I began to think it was mid February, such was the cold. We stuck this cold and mist for a time in the hope that an illusive Goshawk would appear. On the way up I had half convinced myself that the bird I saw briefly disappearing low into the trees (after having fed or watered) was a young Goshawk. I’m not entirely convinced it wasn’t, but neither am I certain it was. In the event we did count a few more Common Buzzards and listened to them mewing. Tom caught sight of a Raven. We all later heard the call of a Raven and all managed decent sightings of at least one pair. We also saw Greater Spotted Woodpecker and heard the yaffle of Green Woodpecker. Apart from this there was the odd Skylark, but little else about.
Tom picked up three or four more Crossbills before we visited the hide at Bakethin Resevoir. The rain was quite heavy by now, but the area was very quiet and atmospheric, and the water reflected pastel colours from the hills. I saw my first Goldcrest of the year here, just outside of the hide. Not as exciting as the Loch Ness Monster recorded by a previous visitor, but nicer to look at. We thought maybe the Sedge Warbler recorded the day before might have been as likely as the monster. A Goosander was seen as were a number of displaying Goldeneye. That neck stretch is something to see. I recommend that this is not attempted at home! Grey Heron put in an appearance as did Long Tailed Tit. The time spent here was a really nice part of the day I thought and I felt at peace with nature. I also felt rather damp and cold but that would be put right by a bite to eat and a cuppa.
After lunch we made back up onto the forest trail road. The Ravens were still about as was Common Buzzard. The mist was even thicker now and the cold even colder! We didn’t hang around to long so we decided to try and find somewhere by the river to park but it wasn’t possible although I did briefly see a Dipper as we drove towards Bellingham. It hadn’t been good conditions to visit Kielder but it had been enjoyable none the less, and there were few people about which always helps to make the day more pleasurable in my opinion.
We drove towards home via Sweethope Lough. The pretty route as Derek said. Lapwing was found. The day was far from over as we decided to visit Prestwick Carr and Big Waters.
Having given Prestwick Carr a good build up it turned out to be very quiet. We did record yet another Common Buzzard, along with the likes of Curlew and Yellowhammer. Note to self says that Prestwick Carr must be visited again soon! Big Waters was to prove more productive today.
It has to be said that the hide at Big Waters is very good indeed. The feeding station was very busy and we recorded the likes of Pheasant, Robin, Chaffinch, Tree Sparrow, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Geenfinch, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer, Stock Dove and Great Spotted Woodpecker which went off to drum nearby. It was quiet by now and I find this time of the evening a relaxing time to bird watch and to actually take in what you’re watching. Those Tree Sparrows really are attractive birds and the male Chaffinches were showing their intensive colours off to the full.
On the water the displaying Goldeneye were again catching the eye. I saw more Goldeneye today than for sometime! The male Gadwalls were also looking dapper and far more attractive than shown in the guide books. Other birds on the water included Great Crested Grebes, Mute Swan, Canada Geese, Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Moorhen and Coot. Two Oystercatchers flew in and onto the small island and Cormorants where in the dead tree. Gulls present included a number of Lesser Black Backed Gulls. It was an enjoyable and relaxing way to end the day. Incidentally once we had left Kielder and travelled eastwards we were soon under blues skies and sun. It felt like we had entered from a different world.
We all agreed that it had been a great day and thanks go to Derek for providing the transport. The all weather birder team continue to face the elements with a smile. Weather……bring it on (but could Saturday be nice please?):-) My count came to a round figure of sixty bird species. I hope I haven’t missed anything. This included some new year ticks for all of us. The Goshawk can wait!