Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Hammers, Jars and Trousers Found

8th June.  As the cloud gathered at tea-time I had another last look for the lost over-trousers before heading to Slaley Forest via Corbridge.  I can announce they have been found in a zipped side pocket inside my travel bag.  I don’t know for the life of me who put them there!  Anyway thankfully the find has saved me a few quid.  In the event they weren’t used last night, but as I walked along the bank of the Tyne at Corbridge it certainly looked as though they were going to be required as thunderous cloud moved over us.  Marie, Sam and I had met up with Tony in the car-park for an evening walk prior to moving onto Slaley Forest for a search for Nightjars.  This area of river bank is one of the best areas I know in Northumberland for Yellowhammers.  They were about in numbers again this evening.  One particularly stunning bird called from the top of a bush as it was joined by a youngster and a warbler.  We’d previously listened to Common Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff calls.  Grey and Pied Wagtails were on or near the pebbled areas.  Rain fell in surrounding areas as the dark clouds passed over us.  By now they were moving south.  There was a chill already in the air whilst we had our tea on the old stones from the old Roman bridge.

River Tyne at Corbridge
We were at Slaley Forest in plenty of time and took our usual route.  As Tony had never heard or seen Nightjars before we were hoping for a successful evening.  Despite the coolness of the evening there were plenty of midgies and mossies to greet us.  So it was on with the insect repellent.  In my case, lots of it.  I’m pleased to say that it appears to have done the trick and for the second year running I avoided reaction to insect bites on a visit to Slaley Forest.  We picked up plenty of roding Woodcock, but as darkness began to set in there was no sound from Nightjars.  It was a moon-lit night with now completely clear skies so darkness as such never really arrived.  The sky through the tree-line looked quite amazing at times and the silence was wonderful.  Unfortunately as far as Nightjars were concerned it wasn’t silence that we were after.  We began our slow return walk picking up the sounds of Woodcock before they flew over us.  It was Sam who heard the distant Nightjar and I thought I picked up a brief distant churring from the opposite direction, but that may have been wishful thinking on my part.  A Tawny Owl called and one was seen on the way home.

I was beginning to think we were going to be out of luck and after last years really successful visit that would have been a shame, especially for Tony who began to ask if it was possible that we might actually see a Nightjar.  I assured him that it was possible.  It wasn’t long afterwards that we were listening to the mechanical churring sounds of a nearby Nightjar and then it or another Nightjar flew in front and very close to us giving Tony and the rest of us a really good sighting.  Tony saw it fly into a nearby young conifer and I’m positive I saw movement from the tree in the stillness of the evening.   There was nothing like the chorus of Nightjars that we had heard last year, but single birds did continue to churr, call and wing-clap and showed well again on at least two occasions.  The night was a success, I have my trousers and I reckon Yellowhammers are as excitingly coloured as many exotic birds!  It was a chilly night by now with small patches of mist across the road in places.  I was home by 12:30am and dreaming soon afterwards.

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