A Nip & a Punch, for the 1st of the month.
The first, was my first singing cock Reed Bunting of the year.
A perfect flat calm Monday morning with bright warm sun - if it wasnt for the icy wind chill coming over the snow clad hills to the West you'd think it was Spring.
Quick check at the gate revealed a huge gang of Curlew - min of 463.
Equally impressive were 37Snipe (my highest count here).
5pr of Shelduck all amicable - sheer no's have changed behaviour somewhat - there was a time when the (semi) resident drake would fend off all comers, youd never see more than a pair on.
Hit the back roads heading West, or should that be black roads - Black Ice !
Couple of roadside stops for Yellowhammer, Kestrel, Tree Sparrows & Buzzard.
Changed plans pronto due to roads & dropped back into NZ15 in the shelter of the well wooded valley.
A trip down memory lane in the process - & visions of my blue Cav going cross country off the road & careering down the bankside !!
but today i managed to keep on the black stuff - stuck it in 1st gear on the tightest bend, phew - must be getting old & sensible.
Parked up & found the valley filled with bird song.
Thrushes, Titmice, Dunnock, Robin, Wren, Green, Chaff & Bullfinch, Stock Dove all joining in. Three Dipper flew past chasing, both the males in song.
Heading across the fields a pr of Grey Partridge lifted from the dyke back as did 60Redwing, rising up into the sun.
Failed to find Little owl ( shock horror ! ) and moved off to a superb semi-natural Oakwood, not a stones throw from a 3 woodpecker site. A Yaffle was vocal in the distance, but he failed to appear.
Some interesting trees along this way with a mighty Oak having not long come down, having recently been cross cut & removed.
The bottom of the stick was some size & i counted 180 rings.
A lop-sided semi mature Scots Pine - a disorder in the buds had produced a massive false growth resembling a huge umbrella.
A large Ash here had a water-logged basal cavity with a decent little Mountain Ash growing out of it.
My Sunday night curry musta been a wrongun as i suddenly had a familiar pain.
Louped over the fence & was just hanging my coat on a branch when a Tawny flew out of the adjacent Holly Tree.
The wood was full of Treecreeper, Nuthatch & tits, but i decided to view from the outside as there was no trail through other than deers & badgers ones, plus that way id have the sun on my back.
Slowly aiming for the next field boundary, i halted in my tracks as something undulated through a gap in the canopy. It landed just out of view within a large Beech, tripod down & an instinctive side step with bins already raised revealed none other than a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker !
It clung motionless to the side of a near vertical scaffhold branch, i hardly dared breathe. Lowering my bins only as far as my nose & shuffling the tripod across, i watched through the scope as it tapped at the loosened grey bark. For ten mins it never moved onto more than 2 large branches, then without warning it up'ed & off into a large Oak, but frustratingly no further sign. No calls, no drumming - certainly one for the to follow up list.
On a high & not concentrating i almost walked into 3 Roe at the wood edge, further Nuthatch & Treecreeper, with a Buzzard pair attracting the Crows. Across the way a large active Badger Sett set against a grassy slope - so little time so many things to check out later.
Scooted round the fields, looking for likely tree holes & was amazed to find a metal chair ratchet strapped up in a tree - how strange . . .
A couple of pair of Buzzard were up & i bumped into a noisy group of half a dozen Jay & a couple of Durham City birders on the way back.
On somewhat of a high, i drove through to the crocs tail, hoping to get the double up with Durhams smallest bird :- the Har finch, but it wasnt to be.
Bumped into a female DBC-er with her camera & dog, had a good old natter.
Missed more Little owls, Green wood, Dipper & Hawfinch - Hoprfully tomorrow will be a better day !