There have been a few false alarms this year but this morning it really was spring like, stepping out of the car with thoughts of summer visitors it was much much milder and not raining, the air was ringing with Skylarks singing. We explored Stobswood moor area, walking the tracks and checking the ponds.
track of the day
So many birds singing and displaying, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting, Lapwing and Curlew. There were passage birds to observe too, two groups of Golden Plover, 3 and 10, with obvious jet black bellies, were seen flying over the highest parts of the moor, and away. My first Wheatear of the year is always a highlight, a male was frequenting a boulder pile, photographs were attempted without success and the bird eventually dropped out of sight from a fence post and we never saw it again, moved on?.
hide and seek Wheatear frustration
distant Wheatear frustration
We headed towards the coast, stopping for tea at Widdrington Moor, Great Crested Grebes were paired up and displaying out on the lake and there were hundreds of gulls on the lake and in the adjacent fields, often spooking and taking to the air. A shout went out just as I bit into a cheese and pickle roll, Swallow!, Stewart picked up a bird flying from the lake towards us, another summer migrant for the morning. Really good to get the first Swallow of the year, not often on the same day as Wheatear mind. On into Druridge Bay, checking out the hides on the reserve we could reach without having to wade through water. 30+ Black Tailed Godwit and a few Ruff on the Budge fields. Sand martins were added to the Summer Migrant tally, usually the very first seen but its been a difficult spring. Cresswell Pond is a place that has a whole story of its own for me but it'll never be told, probably. Checking it out briefly this morning though it was a world away from that tale. Lifting the binoculars on the main pond from the car park by the Bridle Path end,ten Avocets swimming around the pond, calling, they were all swimming together at one point, absolutely wonderful. On our way home as we passed Widdrington Moor a female Marsh Harrier was patrolling the area between the road and the pond, we turned the car and drove back in the hope of a closer view, the bird moved off so we drank tea and headed off ourselves.
I was thinking this week how, each year, the excitement associated with certain things is the same as it always was, and I know it always will be. Its how you view things..
It was inland Lapwings displaying over rough fields that sparked the thought, it so good to see them, back, away from the coast and in breeding areas again.
Even though we have had a period of very rough weather recently that had virtually one hundred percent of land covered in snow, it has quickly melted away and springtime that had paused seems to have rushed forward.
A visit to an upland area is always an odd one as you risk stepping back a week or two, back into deep winter, its always a bit colder than the coast, lifeless and quiet.
This weekend though temperatures were approaching mild. Skylarks were in song, Meadow Pipits were moving through, Reed Buntings paired up and waders, Snipe, Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Golden Plover were all seen or heard.
track of the day
Two mobile phone snaps above, Top, a moorland bridle path, I love tracks like this, snow capped Cheviots in the distance Bottom, a snow covered fence line. A Stoat in its half ermine winter coat was working an area, really difficult to follow at a distance in this landscape. So.. a couple of minutes from a good sized local village and main road and you have areas like this to spend time in. Its the quiet isolation you only get in upland areas in early spring that I like but when the bird life is returning and your listening to song and observing display, you know its all starting again, that just makes it so special.
Ross's Gull, Longhoughton Steel. The last daylight of 2017 I made it just in time to see this bird through Stewarts scope, distant and in very poor light this image from P J Grant 'Gulls a guide to identification' seemed fitting somehow..
A pictoral review of my year. Much more seen and experienced this year than shown here, a good wildlife year... January
I've seen others do this sort of thing really well and its always great to see, reviewing photos and edits like this makes me realise there is masses of room, certainly,for getting better results and hopefully more photographs in 2018 storm 'Dylan' is raging as I type here, its a bit blustery.