14th March. My day got going with a visit to Gibside for lunch with a friend. I hadn’t been here for many years so quickly became quite disorientated. The area seemed so different from what I remembered. I think the fact was that a large area had been felled since my last visit and visiting in winter (well it still felt like winter to me) rather than a hot summer’s day made the area feel so very different. This, and the fact that so much work is taking place. The walk from the parking area might actually be enough of a walk for many visitors. I was puffing by the time I reached the entrance.
It was good to see at least five or six Red Kites even before we got parked up. One Red Kite flying closely overhead appeared to be gathering nesting material. Despite the ‘puffing’ we set of on the long skywalk. We did appear to be the only folk on this walk. I’m sure that this walk didn’t exist when I last visited and although not exactly ‘walking in the air’ it does give great views across the area and it was good to get the binoculars focussed on the Cheviots which appeared to be covered in quite deep snow. On the way up there we saw what was my bird sighting of the day. This was a Jay that perched in perfect light for some minutes giving really good views. The Jay is such a stunning bird when seen well. A good sighting was had of Goldcrest at the viewing hide along with the likes of Blue, Great, Coal, Long-tailed Tits and Mistle Thrush. I have to say bird life was pretty sparse from then on, although we did have several more decent sightings of Red Kite (I lost count of numbers and in any event I assume we saw the same birds on several occasions). In total though, I have no doubt we were well into double figures. It’s unfortunate that the great success of the introduction of Red Kites has up to now not led to them dispersing and nesting more across the area. We also had the calls of Red Kites and occasionally Jays to keep us company at times throughout the day.
I believe the skyline walk is around four and a half miles, so little wonder that I enjoyed my bowl of soup at the end. We had intended to look down on the river where Kingfisher had been seen, but never quite made it. I did need to be back for an appointment in the evening so a further visit will have to be arranged. I’ve never actually been inside of the chapel so have this on my list of must do! I shall have to prepare a bucket list. There seems to be much work going on to restore the walled garden which I think will be worth a look as progress is made. It’s been used as the car park. A Kestrel was seen on the return journey.
The appointment in the evening was with Sam and his mam and dad, Eileen and Malcolm who had invited me to join them at the NWT Photography Awards. Oddly enough the conversation turned to bucket lists. I won’t mention any of the items on our lists!
Well having seen the photographs that had been shortlisted I now realise that I’m going to have to up my game before I enter next year. There were some very stunning images. I picked out one image of Adders which I thought warranted at least some reward, but it wasn’t amongst the winners. I really enjoyed the evening and enjoyed the short session given by David Lindo, The Urban Birder, who I now realise is quite a character with a great sense of humour. I always enjoy those folk, who whilst taking there interests seriously, can have a good laugh about them and also laugh at them selves. I felt it a pity that David Lindo wasn’t given more time as I think he was just warming up. It was good to see some of the younger naturalist of the likes of Sam, Jack B and Cain S being shortlisted and prizes coming the way of two of them.