5th May. Today began with an Oystercatcher found on the roundabout near West Moor, as Sam and I traveled to Gosforth Park Nature Reserve, initially in the hopes of seeing some small mammals. It was an event arranged by NHSN. A group of maybe ten/twelve of us all stood around in anticipation. Dress included gloves, woolen hats, scarves, wellingtons or boots. Yes, it felt like winter in the very cold air and the boots were certainly necessary for negotiating the area of swamped pathway. Initially the mammals that caught the eye weren’t that small at all, as they were Roe Deer. One of them watched by us as it ran through the field adjacent to the reserve where I believe there had been plans to build executive housing! Now shelved, thankfully. We then went on to examine traps left out earlier whilst considering some of the small mammals to be found in the reserve. We found one Common Shrew and I seem to remember four Bank Voles, one of them with what looked like a rather nasty tick attached closely to the eye.
After the mammal session Sam and I spent a couple of hours wandering around the reserve. We eventually found the Green Woodpecker! In fairness I have to confess Sam heard it first and we briefly watched it as it flew across the reserve. Briefly seen, but long heard as it continued to yaffle as we walked around the area. Three other distinct sounds were that of the Water Rail, Jay and Reed Warblers. None was actually seen.
Despite the flooded areas (no doubt because of such heavy rain of late) the reserve is beginning to look lush now and it was a good time to wander around it. Plenty of green leaf, but not enough so as to make bird watching difficult. We eventually left to make for Prestwick Carr. Skylark was seen high in the sky. We never did make Prestwick Carr. It’s a long story! Instead we went back to patch and took a walk around the lake where we initially watched the Great Crested Grebes. I then got in more practice photographing the Common Terns. A White Wagtail (patch first) was seen with a number of Pied Wagtails. There were no Swifts today, but Swallow, Sand Martin and House Martin were present. Both the Whooper Swan and the lone male Goosander remain.
Gosforth Park NR
6th May. It was to be another birding/nature day with Sam. This time we headed for Holywell and a date with a Dipper.
First stop was the pond area which appeared to be very quiet. However we did find Tree Sparrows at the feeding station. The first of several Great Spotted Woodpecker sightings was made and a pair of Great Crested Grebes was watched as they displayed. I have a theory about this pair, put into my mind initially by Sam. I know Cain S believes the second pair of Great Crested Grebes may well have been the pair originally at Holywell. I think they may have returned having found no suitable breeding site on the large lake at Killingworth this year now that the floating ‘thing’ is defunct. I know that a single bird had been seen from time to time at Holywell and during the same period one of the pair kept disappearing from Killingworth Lake. Both birds seem to have gone from Killingworth now and suddenly there is a pair at Holywell! I think they have investigated and returned to what was possibly an original site. Anyway they were nice to watch and were found as we watched and listened to a Sedge Warbler which according to locals I spoke to has only just arrived. This is the first Sedge Warbler I have seen this year although I did hear an early one a few weeks ago during the all weather birders day at Spurn. I agree with comments made that the weather of late has delayed both hirundines and warblers although numbers do appear to be picking up now. There was also a pair of Little Grebe on the pond and much calling from them. Grey Herons were also seen along with Oystercatcher and Lapwing. Pairs of Reed Bunting were also seen.
Heading down the Avenue to the dene we found Blackcaps, Common Whitethroats, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaff. We were unable to locate Lesser Whitethroat, apparently heard yesterday.
Under the Hood, Under Cover!
We did have a stroll down the burn. At one point I left Sam to Photograph Rats which he seemed to be enjoying (should I be worried about this guy?:-)), whilst I watched the Blackcaps and other birds. Nuthatch was seen again and the pair of Grey Wagtails found. On our way back we stopped for more Dipper watching and then walked onwards up the burn where it was very peaceful in contrast the other area frequented by lots of people and dogs today. We found a nice area of Bluebells and a patch of one of my favourite flowers Wood Sorrel. Spent some time here just listening to the water in the burn, bird song and the bees. A pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers made a couple of appearances.
We eventually headed back towards The Avenue passing the young cyclist who have made this area of the dene there own. They seemed to be risking life and limb with some stunts and I was tempted to suggest that they might be safer watching the birds. I thought better of it! On reflection I did miss my chance to get some good photos as they twisted the bicycles in mid air. I remember as a schoolboy helping to make a patch of land on the Fosseway into a kind of speedway track where we used to use our bicycles as speedway bikes. I was never much cop at sport but I was quite good on that track, if I say so myself. We never did anyone any harm.
The Common Whitethroats were quieter now, but there was still some singing from them and I also picked up the song of Yellowhammer. Linnet and Goldfinch were found. Unfortunately there were no waders at the pond, but we did find Shoveller and Shelduck. The Canada Geese have six goslings. Swallows, Sand and House Martins were flying over the pond and Skylark sang. We must bet back for an evening as I’m sure that there’ll be waders about. In fact I know both Green and Common Sandpiper were seen the day before.
Green Veined White Butterfly