21st Aug. I left the house this morning and immediately felt the warmth of the sun, although the berries and changing Rowan Tree across the way suggested autumn was getting into motion. After the rain of the summer months things can only get better! I was greeted by Goldfinch, Swallow, Pied Wagtail and the calling of Wood Pigeons as I headed for the lake. The Swallow was the first of many to be seen today. On a sunny Sunday morning the small lake area is a tranquil place to be, even though I didn’t make it down there as early as on some recent Sundays. It’s an ‘in between’ phase for the birds on the lake now and there wasn’t very much about in terms of species. A lone Great Crested Grebe and two Common Terns further down the larger lake were about as exciting as it got. A few Swallows swooped low over the smaller lake.
Eventually making off towards the wagon-way I found a number of Long Tailed Tits in one of the mature trees in a garden on the estate. Once on the wagon-way proper both Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler were found. Numbers of Swallows were flying over and in the vicinity of the farm where it seems several had nested. More Goldfinches were around along with Chaffinch and Greenfinch.
Further along the wagon-way I left the path to walk through the small grassland area which is a good patch for butterflies. Today I found only whites and very flighty small butterflies which I took to be Wall Browns. I saw only one other larger butterfly later in the day which may have been a Red Admiral. It was hot by now and I was already feeling tired, perhaps dehydration was the problem. My little detour was not wasted and I found that a few smaller passerines where flying around in the taller trees. I soon got my eye on a Spotted Flycatcher. The star bird of the day and as well as a year tick it was a first on patch for me. I’m sure in past years Spotted Flycatchers would not have been uncommon on patch, as there appears to be ample suitable habitat in places, but this was nevertheless a first for me. There’s always something special about finding something like this on patch and on other walks I do, which to me is always every bit as rewarding as chasing some rarity that has often been initially reported by someone else anyway. As well as the flycatcher I found a rather stunningly plumaged Willow Warbler with very vivid supercilium, as well as numbers of Coal and Blue Tit.
I eventually reached the Killingworth to Holystone wagon-way and found a flock of at least sixty Linnets. It’s sometime since I have seen so many Linnets in this area. Another sign of autumn ‘me’ thinks, as numbers tend to build up in this area late in the year. The walk down towards Holystone was a peaceful one, and on this occasion unusually warm. This is usually one of the coolest places on patch with the winds coming across the open fields to make even a summer’s day walk a cool one. I found the pair of Common Whitethroat near their nesting area and as I was watching them another two birds flew out of the hedge. I didn’t catch sight of them well enough to definitely identify, but I’m pretty sure they were part of a family of Common Whitethroat. Anything on the ground in the fields would have been well hidden by the crops and I found little else other than corvids until I reached the stables where numbers of Swallows were really high indeed. Once past the stables I consider myself off patch and I headed through Holystone and onwards to the Rising Sun Country Park, noticing not much other than a pair of Collared Doves on the way.
The park seemed pretty devoid of bird life, so feeling cream crackered by now I headed for the café to see if a bite to eat might restore my vigour. The sandwich and cuppa tea didn’t quite work, so I added a rather nice strawberry tart, after which I walked around to Swallow Pond. In total I counted fifteen Lesser Black Backed Gulls in the vicinity. Two more Common Terns and a quickly disappearing Little Grebe were also seen. Common and Black Headed Gulls were on the water and quite a large number of Herring Gulls eventually flew overhead. The rest of the park was a desert. By now, as if to remind me that it was still summer, dark cloud had gathered and there was a short shower of rain. This cooled me down a little, but was soon over and the heat returned. On the way out of the Park I heard, but was unable to sight a Blackcap.
It had been a pleasant day and had thrown up the unexpected Spotted Flycatcher.