Monday, 13 June 2011

Harthope Valley

12th June. I stood in the sunshine at Killy Lake watching the Great Crested Grebe family and hoping that the Met Office weather forecast would be correct and that there would be no heavy rain until 16.00hrs. Confusing, as the Evening Chronicle forecast heavy rain all day and the BBC home page changed its mind on several occasions as to whether it would be wet or dry! Never mind we were going to Harthope come what may and Tom, Cain and I were soon heading north and passing the odd Common Buzzard on the way. The sun continued to shine, but there were some threatening grey clouds over the Cheviots.

As we approached the valley Tom spotted Red Legged Partridge. On our return journey we were rewarded with another two Red Legged Partridge in the valley and on that occasion I saw them! Anyway, once into the valley we soon found Green Woodpecker as it flew to the right of the car giving a decent, but brief sighting. A stop by the bridge brought us our first Grey Wagtail of the day. The decision had been made to take the hike to look for Ring Ouzel so as to avoid any rain that might come later. Early on the walk we found two birds which flew in front of us and quickly disappeared. We were confident that they were Ring Ouzels. Tom and I had found them in almost the same area last year. We hung around for awhile, but the birds did not reappear. There were numbers of Meadow Pipits in the area.

We soon heard our first Whinchat of the day and had decent sightings of them. One male gave a stunning sighting as it followed us past what we think was a nest close to the pathway. As good and close a sighting as I have ever had of a Whinchat. We saw five (at least) Whinchat in all. A decent sighting of the Ring Ouzel was proving to be not so easy. We did find Red Grouse and Kestrel. Later in the day we had excellent distant scope views of a Kestrel on the nest with three chicks that looked close to fledging. A really nice high point of the day. Cain takes the credit for find the nest and carrying his telescope. Not easy considering the hiking to be done. A party of four Ravens was heard calling and seen flying high over the hills. We reached the point where we could view Scotland in the distance. Still no good sighting of Ring Ouzel. A Kestrel continued to hover above the crags. I tried to make out a bird on the skyline which turned out to be a pair of sheep’s ears! The only butterflies seen today were a very faded Peacock and a Small White. I did find a very nice Spotted Orchid, but botanising wasn’t really on the agenda today..

We began our descent and had not given up hope of Ring Ouzel sightings. Eventually Tom got his eye on a bird in the distance. It was a recently fledged Ring Ouzel and it looked very thin. The partial white collar was plain to see. I guessed parent birds would be close by and it wasn’t long until we had good sightings of a male and female Ring Ouzel on the ground. They eventually seemed to join the young bird. Another male Ring Ouzel joined them, but was chased of by the other male bird. So it had been hard work to find them but we did finally have good sightings of those four birds and taking into account the two early on the walk we had found six Ring Ouzels. These had definitely been the target of our day, but there was much more to the day then one species and even if we hadn’t found them it would still have been a great day. I think!:-)

We thought we were going to be caught in heavy rain as we made our way down to the valley floor. In the event the storm clouds passed over and we were in sunshine for much of the time. Red Grouse were seen again just before we hit the footpath past Langleeford. Another Kestrel was found. At least five Kestrels (+ the three chicks) were seen today, four of them in the valley area. Common Buzzards were seen and Curlews called intermittently as they flew over the valley. The odd Lapwing was also seen.

It wasn’t long before we had our second sighting of Green Woodpecker and also of Grey Wagtail, this one perched in a tree. Willow Warblers were around in great numbers and we also saw numbers of Lesser Redpoll. Gaining good sightings of the latter birds at times. One really good sighting of a Garden Warbler was had, but for me the star bird on this part of the walk was a singing Tree Pipit which hung around for sometime giving us an excellent sighting. It eventually took off and rose into the sky before flying off. There were quite a few Mistle Thrush about, Song Thrush and Yellowhammer were heard and Goldfinch seen. Jays were heard and two seen. When we returned and sat by the burn for lunch I expressed surprise that we had not seen a Dipper today. No sooner said when a Dipper flew up the burn. Unfortunately the same tactic did not work for Redstart and we failed to find one, although we did stop at the likely spot after lunch where we heard our first Chiffchaff of the day. Sand Matins, Swallows, House Martins and Swifts were around in some number in the valley. I seem to recall four or five Wheatear seen today.

On our way home we made a brief stop at Druridge hoping to catch sight of the Spoonbills, but found that they had left. We did watch the Avocets at Cresswell and found that one youngster still survives. We counted twenty-two young Shelduck which appeared to be following one pair of adults. Other Shelduck were about. A Stonechat was seen on the edge of the dunes. Time was getting on and the rain had now arrives as forecast by the met office so we didn’t spend much time in the area However we still managed a list of sixty-one species today which had included some very special sightings. It had been an excellent days birding. Thanks go to Cain for the driving. Thanks also to the Met Office for getting the forecast correct. Goodness knows where the Chronicle gets their forecast from! As for the BBC home page……well that’s just best ignored at all times! Despite the decent weather, numbers of cars parked in the valley and it being a Sunday, we didn't come across that many people. Now that's the way I like it!

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