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Post Info TOPIC: West Durham Wilds


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RE: West Durham Wilds


14/01/2022 Low Force - mid day.

-A steady trickle of appreciative observers here today to see the Red-flanked Bluetail still frequenting this small area (location details as already well described below). 
A stunning inland record for the local patcher/finder Chris McCarty. Barb and I made the pilgrimage to see it (her third and my fourth in the N/E) and then enjoyed a riverside walk upstream in glorious weather. Several Dippers heard both calling and in song but not seen.

Best Wishes,

ML & BP.



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The Red-flanked Bluetail has been present by the River Tees, near Middleton in Teesdale since the 31 December, so I thought I would give it a go today. It certainly put on a show, once it was found after a fifteen minute search, at times, coming to within six or seven yards of the small, assembled group.

For anyone wishing to visit, park up in the Bowlees Visitor Centre Car Park, a few miles west of Middleton. Make your way to the main road, cross through the gate into the meadow opposite and then continue to the bridge below Low Force. Immediately before the bridge, turn left and walk downstream for 300 yds, where a number of trees have fallen to the left of the path. The bird seems to be favouring the area on the left by the first of the fallen trees.

We had a pleasant walk up to High Force and back. Not too much about bird wise, two small flocks of Long-tailed Tit, 4 Raven, 3 Greylag Geese, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Mallard and a few corvids.

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Monday April 1st 2019.

A revisit to Langdon Beck with a plan to observe a Black Grouse lek. Alarms were set for a very reasonable time as we stayed local to avoid daft o'clock alarm calls. We arrived 400 yards from the lekking site at 06.15.

The cocks had arrived before us and were in full throttle from both visual and audio perspectives. The display lasted well over two hours and was incredible to witness.

We drove along the main road to another area and were brought to a halt as two birds did a private display for us by the roadside verge.  Once they had finished their show one bird flew off whilst the other bird nonchalantly crossed to the other side of the road, this experience was privileged. 

All in all, a fantastic, natural experience.  



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Saturday 16th Feb 2019

A weekend trip saw us arrive near Langdon Beck on Saturday morning to try and locate Black Grouse in particular the cock birds. A source had stated "just look in the fields along the road I've seen loads along there"

After an hour of just looking in the fields brought nothing apart from Fieldfare, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow and Starling

We then drove to another hotspot and bingo....thirteen cocks happily feeding in a field.

Going  a little off piste we decided to find our own birds and low and behold just after reversing the car and looking up a hillside two cocks again happily feeding away.

Finally on our way west we had two ravens, all in all a great trip 



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Another fine start weatherwise and a morning out, this time not quite so far; - to Hamsterley Forest (which covers about 30 sq. kilometres and lies some 20/25 k. east of the Cumbrian border and approx.12 K. north of Barnard Castle).

Out today with Doug and Tony, (the latter doing raptor survey work). The first stop at Neighbour Moor quickly produced the overwintering Great Grey Shrike which has been ranging over an expanse of clear-felled forest here. Interestingly it, or another individual, wintered 2 years ago about 1 1/2 k. to the west of here, in similar clear-felled habitat.
Two Common Buzzards were soaring and gaining height in the distance to the north. We moved on and soon parked up again at a different vantage point to scan above a long hill top covered in mature conifers.
A solid looking accipiter was soon picked up flying towards us, before starting to circle and to gain height over the wood. Its rather rounded tail corners and broad tail base, "wrap around" whitish undertail coverts, quite bulging secondaries and full breast confirmed it as a Goshawk, (on size almost certainly a male). We scoped it and stayed on it a full 10 minutes as it eventually became little more than a speck, high in the sky.
Scanning further, we noted a single third soaring Common Buzzard, but a mewing call off to the east behind a screen of conifers indicated the presence of a fourth individual.
With Doug needing Crossbill for the year, we heard but failed to see a "flyover", found a perched Brambling while scanning from the vehicle, and eventually on parking and perusing the distant tree tops from another vantage point, found a vocal party of 4 Crossbills which conveniently landed to give good though distant 'scope views.
With the weather becoming colder and murkier, a halt at the premier Goshawk scanning point on the way home produced only a Kestrel.

News from RSBP Saltholme was of 2 Common Cranes down for about 2 hours, before calling and heading off in a N.Westerly direction; - a sure sign that things are starting to move!

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March 23rd 2011.
A superb spring day in prospect, and after a few chores armed with ham and pickle butties (and of course optics) I was collected by friends Fred and Tony and we headed for the hills.

First stop was Selset Reservoir where immediately we noted Whoopers; a count revealed 30, and although the distance and heat haze made scrutiny of bill patterns impossible, on overall proportions and neck lengths we were satisfied that no Bewicks were sneaking under our radar unseen.
Within only a minute or two more a party of geese flew in and settled on the water a good half mile away, approx. 120 or so - Pink feet. We were struck at the way they formed an incredibly compact raft, as if deliberately seeking the security of a tight huddle towards the centre of the expanse of water.
Do they always do this on water? I just don't know the answer; after 40 years there is always something new to learn.

We drove west for several more miles, passing right by a fine Blackcock perched on the roadside wall. This is of course our emblem species of the Durham Bird Club, (Durham being the main English stronghold of the species). As well as that, it was a "year tick" for Tony. Soon after we parked up, scanning northwards for the main quarry of the day, one of the 2/3 Rough-legged Buzzards lingering here over recent weeks.
Fred, one of our regular crew on major trips, sharp eyed as usual and true to form took only seconds to call our attention to a rangy looking buteo hovering over a distant ridge. We assessed it critically and despite an annoying heat haze and much twiddling over magnifications and focuses on our scopes, we all noted much promising white in the underparts and then the clincher, - a glaring white upper tail clearly visible on several passes; - rather poor views really, but a pleasing year tick all the same for two of us, (Tony along with local N.E. birder Dave Britton having seen this and/or a second bird here over recent weeks).

We headed a little way to the S.E. crossing a causeway between two reservoirs and parked up by Brownberry Plantation, for lunch. On the approach road we stopped to check out a passerine in a small isolated roadside bush; - a male Crossbill, with a female skulking just further into cover.
Up by the plantation, Siskins wheeled overhead, males splaying out their tail feathers in display with females critically assessing them from below. A pair of Buzzards appeared overhead , the higher one displaying with a lazy half dive.

After lunch we pressed on South West to Balderhead Reservoir, (new territory for me; - after all I've only been up here for 18 years). There we had hoped to see another Rough-leg which had been showing well and perching on a wall last week, but it was no show. The only additions being a trickle of Sand Martins over an arm of the reservoir, and a pair of Snipe. The background sounds up here capped off a magic interlude, meadow Pipits at last in full song and display, skylarks in full song, Snipe "tick-tocking", Curlews rippling, Lapwings tumbling and distant pipings of Golden Plover and Redshank calls reaching the ear. We tried to make distant hazy corvids into Ravens, but the distances were just too vast.

The Durham moorland here looks endless and remote, but the shooting butts serve as a sobering reminder as to why Hen Harriers do not abound here; - the shooting interests maintain their own illegal version of a "no fly zone" and one wonders how and if this might ever change.

- A great few hours enjoying the fabulous landscape on our doorsteps; the birds being the icing on the cake.




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