A frosty walk
15th Jan. I’m reliably informed it was minus five degrees early this morning. It certainly felt bitterly cold as I left for Heaton Park and Jesmond Dene. The frost was still thick in places in the dene at noon and despite being wrapped up like a Christmas parcel, I never felt warm at any point during my walk. A thin layer of ice was forming along the side of the burn that was the most shaded.
Unusually there were few birds near the entrance to Heaton Park but I did eventually find a male Blackcap along with the tits and Blackbirds. A little further in to the park and at least two Nuthatches were found, heard before seen, along with the first Treecreeper of the day and Great, Coal, Blue and Long Tailed Tits. Quite a few Stock Doves were around, but I saw no sign of woodpeckers. Three Mistle Thrushes flew from the tops of the taller trees.
The first Dipper of the day was found under the road bridge next to Armstrong Bridge before entering the dene proper. I watched the white of the blinking nictitating membrane as the bird dipped on a rock. At least three Goldcrest were found near to Pets Corner, as was the next Treecreeper and flock of Long Tailed Tits, but after that apart from Mallards, of which there were many, and a couple of Moorhens things went very quiet.
It wasn’t until approaching the South Gosforth area that the Kingfisher was seen and then at least one more Dipper showed very well. The surprise bird of the day was a Water Rail which showed really well before running along the bank of the burn and disappearing. I went most of last year without finding Water Rail, and so far this month I’ve had two fine sightings.
As I say, the dene was very cold, but picturesque in the frosty atmosphere. I perhaps ended the walk a little earlier than I have in the past. The cold and thoughts of the match on TV quickened the footsteps I think. I was back in time for kick off and the score warmed me up even if the match itself had not been too hot.