Early morning atmosphere at Geltsdale
24th Mar. I was picked up by Sam and Malcolm just before 5:00am and we headed off into the mist westwards towards Geltsdale. In places visibility was very poor, so we had fingers crossed that things would improve the further west we got. They did to a large extent and we were the first to arrive at the reserve for the Black Grouse Lek viewing. Mist still filled some of the valleys and my question to the RSPB representative as to whether or not my scope would be used simply brought a wry smile! I took it along anyway. To be honest by the time I’d crossed the boggy land and climbed the hill in the coldness of early morning, I wondered if I ought not to have just relied on my binoculars. Note to self…….get fit! Good job I did take the scope however as the birds were some what distant. It was rather unfortunate that the valley the Black Grouse were lekking in was still holding mist. I can happily report however that we had reasonable scope sightings of three displaying cock birds and one hen bird. They occasionally disappeared in the mist. The latter possibly giving the best sighting of all as it stood on the wall attracted by the males. It was all very atmospheric even though the birds were rather distant. The cock birds could be heard. This was a great time of day to be out and a great area to be in. Brown Hares added some mammalian interest and I heard someone mention a Weasel, but I didn’t see it.
In addition to the Black Grouse we heard and saw Lapwing, Golden Plover, Redshank, Curlew and drumming Common Snipe. A large flock of Fieldfares fed on the ground in the distance. The Lapwings were especially active in display flight and noisy. Sam spotted a couple of Wheatears which had apparently just arrived this week. When we returned to the centre we were given tea and bacon sandwiches. I don’t much like bacon sandwiches if I’m honest, but having been out of bed since 4:00am and up that hill, I did get stuck into it. Red-legged Partridges were heard and briefly seen nearby.
Under the Hood gives Killy some instruction on Toads
I'm ignoring calls to change the blog name to Killy Toader!
Like me, warming up after a cold start to the day.
Afterwards Sam, Malcolm and I went looking for Dippers on the burn. By now the mist had disappeared more or less and it was quickly warming up in the sun. We found no Dippers on the clear cold water of the burn where a few Coltsfoot added some bright colour. We did find a pair of Stonechats showing really well in the now bright clear light, numerous Toads and on the window ledge of the centre, a Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly warming itself in the sun. Meadow Pipits and Skylark were in the area. Before we left we chatted to the RSPB representative. I’m afraid I never did get his name. We decided that we must return to further explore the reserve and attempt to get up higher on the fells. Maybe in summer.
We left and headed for an area of common /moorland. Its name escapes me. I know I have never visited this area of high ground near Haltwhistle before, although I’ve passed the sign for it many times. We took a walk on a couple of areas of the common and found numbers of Meadow Pipit, often showing that unmistakable parachute like drop, and Red Grouse and everything that comes with an area used for game shooting purposes. Sadly the opportunity of catching an image of a Red Grouse stood on a post right next to the car eluded us. I was too slow and unlike him, Sam had his camera in the boot! There will be another opportunity I’m sure. My attempts at photographing Red Grouse are not of very good standard I’m afraid so not appearing. Both Common Buzzard and Kestrel flew over the area. We thought it was another area worthy of future exploration, perhaps early morning. More Toads were found. Many having been flattened as they crossed the road. Views from here would have been very good had it not been for haze blocking out any distant view. We were getting hot by now and layers of clothing were being removed.
Our final stop on the journey home was at Whittle Dene Reservoir. By now there was some real heat in the sun. It was like a summer’s day and I enjoyed the sit beside the reservoir as the sunlight was reflected of the water. I suspect the water was still very cold in the deeper areas. We were all very warm by now and rather tired so this was a really nice ending to the day. Reed Bunting was found in the trees, a pair of Great Crested Grebe diving at length was found on the water along with Mute Swans, six Goldeneye. A pair of Grey Wagtails, the yellow colouring showing well in the bright sunlight flew overhead. Frogs were found in one of the man made streams which appeared to be used to control water levels in the reservoir.
So despite the misty start to the day which meant perhaps that the Black Grouse viewing was somewhat limited we had all experienced a really good day. My thanks go to Sam and his dad, Malcolm. The RSPB too of course for the very good work done in the Geltsdale area. The type of reserve I like, with not a café or cream cake in sight!
I’ve stayed at home today, mowed the lawn in the sun and watched a classy performance by the Magpies. Vive le Toon.