TRIP REPORT from Spring in the North Pennines holiday
30th March to 1st April 2007
Guests in this party were:
Gillian Cox, Marjory Sifton , Sheila Mackey, Jack and Margaret Lee, Christopher and Mary Ash, Sheila Clark, Sarah Priest, Ken Jenner, Stephen and Susan Stocks.
Friday March 30th
After arrival at Lovelady Shield Hotel in Nenthead and a 6pm briefing, we walked from the hotel on a circular walk around the Nent Valley. The calm, cold and gloomy conditions were not encouraging much bird activity along the river. However, Sheila helpfully encouraged a Woodcock to take flight, giving the rest of the party close views as the bird climbed up through the trees. Sparrowhawk and Kestrel were also viewed before dusk.
Saturday March 31st
A short drive from the hotel at 6am brought us adjacent to a Black Grouse lek. Three birds lekked intermittently, giving close views as the morning light improved.
After a warm breakfast encouraged blood to return to fingers and toes, we set out from the hotel, driving north to visit the RSPB's Geltsdale Reserve, just south of the village of Hallbankgate in Cumbria.
Dave O'Hara, the site manager, gave us a great guided walk around the Tarn House farm section of the reserve. This included a sneak preview of the new reserve information point (including a CCTV camera set up on a wader scrape) prior to the official opening in late April 2007. We also saw the new Bruthwaite Forest, an enormous native woodland creation scheme which will cover one of the flanks of the reserve when it matures.
Birds included great views of an early Wheatear, Peregrine and Reed Bunting. Redshank, Lapwing, Curlew, Snipe, Stock Dove, Grey Wagtail and Raven were also viewed. A quick look across onto Tindale Tarn gave us Black Swan (a long staying bird in north Cumbria), Goldeneye, Coot and Teal.
Sadly, Hen Harrier (one of the really special birds of the reserve) was not viewed – reserve staff had only had a handful of sightings of birds so far this spring. Dave was hoping more birds would arrive in the coming weeks, with at least one pair settling down to breed. This bird continues to have enormous problems with persecution in northern England.
After a picnic lunch, we headed back into the South Tyne valley, walking through mixed woodland onto Lambley Viaduct, which now is part of a recreational trail crossing the South Tyne river. As the sun started to warm the air, we got excellent views of Peregrine, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard as they crossed the valley. Nuthatch, Goosander and Dipper were also viewed on the river and fringing trees below the viaduct. We also saw a large Accipter hawk with the deep chest and long wings of a male Goshawk. Lengthier views were needed for confirmation.
A tired group got back to the hotel at 6pm after a long day.
Sunday April 1st
Leaving the hotel at 9am, we headed south into Weardale and onto Bollihope Moor, with great views of Red Grouse and Curlew as we dropped into a moorland valley with two quarries lying in the bottom. A walk up into one of the quarries eventually gave us great distant views of a male Ring Ouzel feeding on grassland across the valley. The bird showed well for around 20 minutes. Again, we were fortunate to catch up with this bird so early in the spring.
A short walk down to the River Tees at Bowlees preceded lunch. Woodland birds were elusive but a beautiful Wren nest building in a tree bole on the riverbank was a real highlight.
After another huge picnic lunch, we headed up Teesdale , driving around the head of the dale and getting great views of Grey Partridge, Lapwing sitting on nests, Redshank and hundreds of Fieldfare feeding up on the pastures. Arriving at Herdship Farm, Kath Toward, one of the farming family running the farm, greeted us and introduced us to this special farm, so important for hay meadow and alpine/artic flowers and birds. We walked up the farm track and enjoyed some spirited discussion in the late afternoon sunshine. The farm was quiet, other than the beautiful Redshank and Lapwing holding territory on the meadows and pastures along the farm track. We were disappointed to have missed the Golden Plover that usually grace the fields, flying down from the moor tops where they breed.
The group returned to the hotel for 5pm.
61 bird species were viewed or heard during the weekend. They are listed below.
Group at Herdship Farm with Kath Toward on Sunday April 1
Spring in the North Pennines trip Mar 30th – Apr 1st 2007 – birds seen or heard.
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