Sunday, 10 February 2013

Walking With Ravens in Hadrian's Country

9th Feb.  Sam and I had a walk to explore prior to repeating it in August as an RSPB Walk.  We were joined by my brother today in the area of Greenhead and Hadrian’s Wall country.  We left a bright North-East and headed into light drizzle and some mist as we ventured westwards.  Both the drizzle and mist was to descend at times throughout our walk, but in no way enough quantity to spoil the day.  We were in an area of much natural, geological and social history and as my brother knows the area well we were able to make the most of it.  Hopefully the added interest will attract participants to the walk later in the year.  Whilst parking up we saw less than a handful of people and throughout the walk we saw only wildlife and ourselves.  I wasn’t expecting a long list of species today but did hope maybe that we might see Ravens.

The area was boggy to say the least and it wasn’t long before our feet were wet.  We’d seen a Kestrel early on.  Much of the walk was on rough boggy ground and with the short, but regular climbs quite tiring.  A pair of singing Dippers were soon found and two Roe Deer seen running off above us.  Another Dipper territory to add to our growing list of watched Dipper territories in Northumberland.  I think Sam may have had a brief sighting of a Merlin.  As we left the wooded area we disturbed a Woodcock which gave us a brief sighting as it noisily flew off.  I think a previous brief sighting of a bird disappearing behind a dip in the land may have been Woodcock too, but I’m not certain of that one.  As we walked across open boggy ground a Common Snipe lifted and flew briefly in typical zigzag fashion.  At this point we decided to stop for a bit of lunch and take in the view of Wall town Crags, as they were at times covered in mist then at other times clear.  I was beginning to think that we were going to have no luck with Ravens.

We ended the walk checking out an area of botanical interest.  Well, when I say of botanical interest, this I think will come later in the year although the signs were already showing as new vegetation was coming through.  I found a single daisy just beginning to flower.  We also found a small area rich in fossils and spent a bit of time looking at this.

Just before we left the area I heard the high pitched call of a Goldcrest.  We then saw it fly over in front of us and watched as it moved through the vegetation.  As Sam and I stood and chatted we both picked up an unmistakeable call.  We both looked up to find four calling Ravens flying southwards.  A great way to end the walk and along with Woodcock, new year ticks for both of us.  Unfortunately my brother was engaged in other business and missed them, but the couple sitting in the car nearby us seemed interested to note them!  I began to realise just how damp I had become.  I hadn’t really noticed during the walk.  There was no wind at all, so the cold wasn’t really felt until we stood around.  My feet began to get steadily colder now not helped by the dampness in my boots.

We decided to check out a few places on the journey home which meant a few short diversions through what I feel is some of the wildest country in Northumberland.  Snow still remained in parts and you could tell that the drifts had been very deep and still were quite deep in places.  During the day my brother pointed out the growing use of gates rather than stiles in the area for easy access for all.  His view is that Hadrian had the wall built to keep people out rather than to make for easy access.  He is a bit biased on this point. :-)  We found one gate had been built oddly enough with a large wooden post carrying wires above.  This was right in the centre of the gate opening.  We stopped at Cawfields Quarry.  I don’t remember ever having been here before, but Sam remembered having seen photographs.  There were no birds on the deep water pool here, but there were some excellent reflections so Sam and I had not taken the camera gear in vain.  We hadn’t used it during the walk because of the dampness and mist.  I learnt that this pool is favoured by practising divers such is the depth and that they have much to examine underwater as it is also a favoured pool to dispose of vehicles!  It was at this point my brother showed me a large photograph of a group in the Hexham Courant.  It had been taken at night and who should be there but our friend Holywell Birding.  Gazing at the stars I believe.

Cawfields Quarry Reflections
Next we took a look at the access routes to Greenlee Lough which included a stop at Steel Rigg in rather different conditions than Sam, Malcolm and I had experienced when there last year on one of the few very hot days we had in 2012.  Greenlee Lough is on my list of possible future walks.

Grindon Lough was our next stop.  Sam found a Weasel in the dry stone wall here and we had found a Badger set earlier in the day.  I counted at least two hundred Canada Geese on the water and they were eventually joined by sixteen Pink-footed Geese.  Other birds seen were numbers of Mallard, Wigeon, a few Teal, Pochard, several Goldeneye and Moorhens.  It was a nice way to end our adventure although not quite the last stop as we pulled in for refreshment at Hexham before making for home.  It had been an all round interesting and rewarding day and Sam and I began to have some ideas of a photography nature as well as wildlife and walks.  It had been really good to have my brother with us, not least because he had the transport, but more so because of the different routes of interest he shared with us as a non birder.  I was really tired when I got home.

10th Feb.  No birding today as I really must try and get some notes put together for a presentation Sam and I are to give for the first time concerning the pair of breeding Great Crested Grebes on Killingworth Lake.  It’s to be given for the RSPB LG on Tuesday 12th March and then probably repeated for the WWT at a later date.  We also have some work to do concerning a walk we are to lead in the area of Spindlestone on Sat 25th May.  This will have a limit set on numbers participating.  I reckon this could be a really good walk so anyone interested in joining us should make contact as soon as possible as places are already being taken up.


  1. Cawfields is a great place, especially for the night sky ! I'm pleased they used the image in the courant :)

  2. Large image at that! If my memory serves me well it covered much of the page Cain, but I didn't get a chance to read anything.:-) It's certainly an interesting spot. Cheers.

  3. Sounds like a fascinating area! I bet it's been well explored.

    I hope to see Ravens and Woodcock in August (as well as other things of course, lol).

  4. Cheers Mark. An interesting area and I'll be doing more homework on it prior to August which seems such a long time away, but will be with us before we know it!

  5. Cheers Brian, sounds good. Yep given the way the years fly by, it shall be August very soon, lol!