Monday, 30 April 2012

'Black Caps', a First Foot and a Wellington to Boot!

28th April.  Plans for Sunday were put on the back burner as three was down to two.  Sam and I decided to walk the Holywell route on Saturday.

The pond and feeding stations were very quiet, although the public hide had attracted quite a crowd.  Swallows, Sand Martins and House Martins flew over the pond, the later being the first of the year for me.  Sam got his eye on a Great Spotted Woodpecker and I found a Little Grebe on the water.  Reed Bunting was found in the reed-bed and Chiffchaffs were calling.  We moved on towards the dene quite quickly having found no sign of Common Whitethroats up beside East Pool.  Our first Willow Warbler of the day was heard as we walked down The Avenue.

A pair of Blackcap greeted us as we turned into the dene.  This was the first of quite a number to be seen today.  I reckon we counted at least five pairs in the dene alone.  I don’t remember seeing so many Blackcaps on previous occasions as I have this year.  Maybe getting to grips with the song helps.  Three Common Whitethroats were seen on the edge of the woodland, at least two more Willow Warblers and countless Chiffchaff were noted.  After the rains of late the dene had changed quite dramatically since our last visit.  The brown tinted burn was running fast and deeply, in stark contrast to the low waters previously seen.  The Dippers favoured stone is submerged.  Having also seen the burn at Howick flooded recently, it’s hard to believe we have a drought in England!  Only one Dipper was recorded and I seem to think that the nest of the Grey Wagtail watched on a previous visit has been abandoned and I suspect other birds nests have been swamped.  One Grey Wagtail was seen further down the burn.  Treecreeper and a pair of Stock Doves were seen briefly.

The dene often looks at its best as water pours into it on both bank sides and today was no exception.  The flora was showing well too with the predominant flower being Bluebells.  Violet species, Greater Stitchwort, Red Campion, Cowslip and Lesser Celandine were amongst other plants seen.  A few Ladybirds caught the eye too.
Violet species
After a stop for lunch in the sun we headed along a sodden pathway towards Seaton Sluice.  Sam decided to almost do a ‘Vicar of Dibley’ as one of his legs disappeared in a puddle come duck pond.  He carried on with great valour, with one dry foot and one very wet foot!  As we reached Seaton Sluice he asked if we could visit the hide.  I think he saw his chance to dry out a little and I promised him that his right foot would be the first to ever appear on my blog.  He was ‘first footing’ in 2012 so to speak.  Apart from a large foot there wasn’t too much else to report from the hide apart from Eider Ducks, Oystercatchers, Turnstones and Kittiwakes.  Nice to see the hide has some new windows.  The central heating and carpets aren’t in yet however.

First Foot
As if to prove there is more to life than bird watching we came across a group of guys flying model aeroplanes.  Now I knew we wouldn’t pass these without, Sam especially, showing some real interest as he’s a great knowledge of aviation matters.  I found them interesting myself as they were manoeuvred in the wind.  This is where the ‘Wellington’ comes in.  It was on the ground and looking to me far too big to take off.  However it did eventually and provided a good photographic opportunity.  I seem to remember the owner saying that it was the only one of its type in Britain!
From the internet ‘The Vickers Wellington was a British twin-engine, long range medium bomber designed in the mid-1930s at Brooklands in Weybridge, Surrey, by Vickers-Armstrongs' Chief Designer, R. K. Pierson. It was widely used as a night bomber in the early years of the Second World War, before being displaced as a bomber by the larger four-engine "heavies" such as the Avro Lancaster. The Wellington continued to serve throughout the war in other duties, particularly as an anti-submarine aircraft. It was the only British bomber to be produced for the entire duration of the war. The Wellington was popularly known as the Wimpy by service personnel, after J. Wellington Wimpy from the Popeye cartoons and a Wellington "B for Bertie" had a starring role in the 1942 Oscar-nominated Powell and Pressburger film One of Our Aircraft Is Missing. The Wellington was one of two bombers named after Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, the other being the Vickers Wellesley.

Leaving the Wellington behind we found Fulmars putting on just as impressive flying display and the cameras were out again.  Yes, I keep practising.  Also seen on the walk were Shelduck, Rock Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Skylark and Linnet.  The wetland was a desert!

We ended the day at Northumberland Park where we found more Blackcap!  There was a good deal of bird song.  No sign of the Nuthatch at or near its nest, but we watched a pair of Coal Tits that appear to have a nest in the stone wall.  It was a nice way to end the day.  By the time we reached home territory we had a day list of sixty-one species and low and behold it was starting to rain!

29th  I was out on patch quite early this morning and bumped into Sam again.:-)  We had a little search, but not for birds this time.  I’d lost my wallet again!  After numerous telephone calls, including to the bank, all has ended happily as someone has returned it.  Long story, but just to say it is gratifying to know that on the whole people are honest.  Thanks to all who helped.  Never much cash in my wallet, but a few other things of even greater importance.  Anyway we had at least three Swifts over and near to the lake this morning (the first of the year for me, although I believe Sam had spotted them last night), along with 12+ Sand Martins, Swallows and House Martins.  The Whooper Swan remains, as does one lone Goosander that seems to have a problem with a wing.  There’s a goose which looks in everyway a Greylag apart from its very small size.  A very cold and later wet day, so perhaps not so bad that we had to cancel our previous plans.

I may have said this before but having hesitated for a considerable time over the issue of bird photography, I am really finding it helpful in making me concentrate on birds and their behaviour.  Made me slow down and concentrate more, so it’s had the reverse effect from what thought it might, if you get my meaning.  I’m really enjoying it.  Even beginning to think I need to expand my equipment.  Now that’s not good, as I always get a sweat on when spending money!:-)


  1. Hi Brian, the Grey Wagtails had 4 chicks, which must have fledged. Glad your wallet was returned !

  2. Cheers Cain. Glad it sounds as though wagtails were successful then. Probably longer when I was down there than I thought.:-)
    Gonna buy a small chain for my wallet. ha ha

  3. Yeah that was a very different days birding! Lol. They do say that variety is the spice of life, lol.

    I'm glad you got your wallet back (and that Sam's foot dried out, lol).

  4. All's Well that Ends Well, Mark.:-)