Sunday, 29 January 2012

Red Kites in the Sunset

Frozen Lake in Derwent Valley

Pair of Dippers later found singing.

One of many Red Kites

Nice to see the Snowdrops.

Nine Arch Bridge, Derwent Valley.

Sunset as the Red Kites come to roost.

28th Jan. I’d agreed with Sam (Under the Hood) to go and take a look at the Red Kite roost in the Derwent Valley today. We didn’t want to waste any part of the day so we left for Winlaton Mill in the morning, giving plenty of time to explore the river area and visit Far Pastures, before making for the Nine Arch Bridge to hopefully view a few Red Kites. Cold air and icy roads had welcomed us in the morning and the pathway leading from Winlaton Mill remained icy. The sun was shining however and we soon warmed up.

It wasn’t long until we caught sight of our first Red Kite flying above us. Year tick number one for the day. Year tick number two came in the form of an overhead Peregrine Falcon. A brief, but welcome sighting. Several Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk added to the raptor list for the day.

The small pond was completely frozen so all that was found here were a couple of Mute Swans. Jays were heard and then eventually seen. Time spent by the river was productive. Sam was keen to get some photographs, and I not having the scope today took the camera, although I had no intention of competing in the photography stakes. We soon had good views of a pair of Dippers. A txt came through on my mobile and I checked it (bad decision). It was a regular txt from a friend in Perth, about Scottish football club St Johnston. I looked up from reading the txt to be told by Sam that a Kingfisher had just flown by at very close range. I thought ‘oh dear’ or something along those lines, and congratulated Sam on his sighting, feeling no jealousy at all (if you believe that you’ll believe anything). Sam was polite enough not to remind me too many times that I’d missed the bird.:-) A Grey Heron flew over the river. This little session by the river reminded me of the benefits of taking time just to stop look and listen and let things come to you, rather than chasing after birds and wildlife. I really enjoyed that peaceful time by the river.

As we headed for Far Pastures, Roe Deer were seen in the woodland. There was no sign of the Firecrest when we arrived at Far Pasture and the pond here was frozen solid so there was nothing about. We did get chatting to a couple of birders, one of them Simon who is often found watching at the Rising Sun CP. He has spent some time looking for the Firecrest. The hide was handy to take lunch in before we moved on again. Sam knew this area better than I did as he visits here for photographic reasons. We found another pair of Dippers. I’m certain that they were another pair in a different territory. Walking along the river bank took us to underneath the Nine Arch Bridge which we had crossed earlier. I’d never been down here before. It was nice to see Snowdrops in flower although perhaps they may yet be covered in snow!

We arrived at the Red Kite viewing area early. It seemed quite warm at this point in time, but that was to change by the time we left and my feet had almost frozen to the ground. Wonderful view from this are, spoilt only by pylons and wires across the valley. The pylon to the south did serve well as a perch for the Red Kites, with three of them on the top of it at one point. We were well rewarded with Red Kites coming in from all directions with their distinctive calls filling the air. Sam reckoned we saw more than twenty and I wouldn’t argue with that, although getting a definite count proved impossible. I could never tire of watching such magnificent birds and the view and sunset to the west added to the enjoyment. By now there were only a few keen observers around. Hopefully these birds will never be taken for granted.

As the cold started to hit us we managed to pull ourselves away from the Nine Arch Bridge and head back towards Winlaton Mill. I had hoped for Siskins today and we had seen a small flock of maybe fifteen of them whilst we waited for the Red Kites to display. Nothing on the scale of the large flocks I saw last winter in this area, but nevertheless year tick number three. W took a final look on the river and found another pair of Dippers. This is likely to have been the pair we had initially seen in the morning. This time we heard Dipper song. Not something I have heard often and I had mentioned this to Sam previously. A Goosander flew down river as we watched.

We thought an owl or two would finish the day off very well, but agreed that this might be being too greedy. We had been surprised not to have seen Grey Wagtails in this habitat. I’d been talking to Sam about how this bird is so often associated with Dipper and Kingfisher and that all three have evolved high pitch songs and calls in order to be heard over the sound of the running water of rivers and streams. The weather was perfect for the time of year and I had really enjoyed the day. Thanks Sam, your knowledge of birds and nature is coming along very well indeed.


  1. Hi Brian, just reading through the blogs seems everyone has been over to see the Kites,it was not the best day weather wise but still good to see !!!

  2. Hi Brian. Yes, it seems as though a few of us have been over.:-) Weather has taken a turn for the worse since Sat so we were lucky.

  3. Just read your posting today as i missed it somehow originally. IF you head back again for the Kites try dropping down to the Nine Arches from Thornley Woodland Centre following the yellow marked route to try to see those excellent wood carvings from the tree stumps.
    Also if you have time Clockburn Lake has held a Kingfisher the last 3 times i've visited.

  4. Hi John. Clockburn was frozen solid on Sat so I think Kingfisher was keeping to the river.
    I remembered the carvings you mentioned but we didn't have time to look having come in from Winlaton Mill. I will certainly look he next time I'm up there. Sam would have probably liked to get some photos of them.
    Incidentally I noted yesterday the the Gateshead e petition is short only of a few names to make the 2,000 required to ensure things get discussed at council. I'm sure the names will be added before close.
    Cheers. Brian