On Saturday 14th I headed east to cover the Cumbria/Northumberland border for a couple of hours and had a productive spell seeing a female hen harrier and a male goshawk. Another lovely sight was a flock of siskin 100 plus strong sporadically flying back and forth a sitka sprcue plantation. On the 18th and 20th Feb I had short-eared owl wing clapping on Geltsdale in v low light and a nice number of active woodcock. Long-eared owl continue to be very vocal in nocturnal hours. On the 24th I had 300 plus fieldfare going to roost in the ling heather. Black grouse cocks lekking on Geltsdale on the 25th Feb.
A Clean Slate
I spent an afternoon on the 15th Feb covering local woodland down the valley to clean out the nest boxes ready for the coming breeding season. I emptied over 15 boxes in total with 3 having wasp nests in and 4 having pied flycatcher nesting material consisting of birch bark, sheep wool and moss. The others had been occupied by great/blue tits with one nest having a solitary blue tit egg in. I managed to discover a few different feathers whilst out in the field with the best one being a primary from a tawny owl. I also collected feathers of woodpigeon, carrion crow and woodcock.
On the 16th dad and I covered the Scots side of the Solway to see what species we could observe. An adult Mediterranean gull on the Cummertrees loop was a good start. Our geese estimates were 8000 barnacle and 4000 pink-foots in the vicinity along with 200 lapwing, 200 curlew, 200 bh gulls, 50 golden plover and 5 reed buntings. Further to the west we got an adult bewick's swan with 20 whoopers.
|Large string of starlings|
Dad and I called into Rigg for the starling roost on the 16th Feb and were treated to a wonderful display of 300,000 birds getting shaped by four raptor species! Merlin, 2 peregrines, 3 sparrowhawks and 2 buzzards interacted with the flock and a kestrel hunting nearby. On the drive back home we got two barn owls roadside on the Hayton stretch!
|Rigg roost, peregrine pushing them up from below...|
An afternoon out to the Scots side Solway with dad on the 23rd Feb. We timed the trip to co-inside with high tide on springs and added to it a force 5-6 SW wind creating a big tidal surge. Our first stop was at Newbie where we came across around 3000 oystercatchers on a high water roost! There was 6 turnstones and 7 redshank feeding around them. Some fascinating behaviour was observed while I was eating my sandwiches as a carrion crow flew over the roost at an intense speed and the waders did not react at all. Very shortly afterwards a female kestrel flew over and a small number of oystercatchers attempted to take flight before realising it was a false alarm. Minutes later a female sparrowhawk appeared overhead and the before we had seen the raptor the 3000 plus oystercatchers were in flight in a hugely frantic manner! It always fascinates me how birds know of a potential threat in a split second whether it's through communication or sharp awareness...just wonderful to watch.
|Oystercatchers leaving high water roost|
Later on the 23rd February I saw one of the most beautiful sights of the year so far just on the border to WWT Caerlaverock. It was a country red fox roaming the rough grass searching for prey. We observed it from the car and the mammal was only 100 yards away as it flushed possibly a rat in a failed attempt to catch it. What a stunning animal and I felt like the luckiest and richest person on the planet while watching it. I feel sorry for people that have such hatred and negativity when they see this super-species.
|One of my winter highlights!! A memorable sight of an icon of our countryside!|
Other Wildfowl records on the 23rd were female scaup, 10,000 barnacle geese, 200 pintail, 200 pink-footed geese, 1000 knot, 500 dunlin, 200 wigeon, 400 golden plover and 300 lapwing. Sightings were around Cummertrees and WWT Caerlaverock.
|Shoveller drakes and duck...|
Just as we were leaving Brow Well in admiration of the high water line and localized flooding we saw a small raptor sat in a hawthorn only 10 metres from us and as we reversed back to have a look it was a female merlin taking flight and travelling away from us!
Thanks for looking :)