As you know from these blogs NZ26 is my drug of choice. Some days it plays this role very well. Out before work to go for a Grasshopper Warbler reported by @joe_dobinson near Swallow Pond was relatively easy. A bright cold start, bird song in bucket loads. This included a very confiding Willow Warbler singing for 20mins down to a couple of metres. He impressed me, but he impressed what I think must have been a silent female more as she stood tall in a leafless Ash tree and mechanically moved her wings in and out exposing her under-wing coverts. Either side were two new birds for the list #98 Whitethroat and a short burst of #99 reeling from a patch of bramble by the pit heap in z. Getting back across Newcastle early doors when the previous day’s Lesser Whitethroat in Benton was no longer singing, not so much fun.
Bright and cold went to windy and miserable, but I was now on 99. So one more try for the Ringed Plover on the Tyne. Fail. Then the twin ‘voices’ kick in. The one saying ‘there’s always tomorrow’ and the one saying ‘lets just try somewhere else’. There were no Sand Martins at Watergate Park or any Lesser Whitethroats in the scrub to the North. So aimlessly wandering up the hill I thought I will go and see if there are any Whitethroat in the top hedge as a tetrad tick at least. Nope.
In the lea of the wind two robins at 80 metres were dropping down onto food and returning to the hedge. Then a third bird, with an brick-red tail did the same. Can’t be. I moved closer and it was a female Redstart with all its splendid shivering tail. I know I the week of find refind Hudsonian Godwit this is not big news, but this is NZ26. I had not even thought about Redstart. And for it to be #100. I was happy.
The lea of the hedge is not the footpath, but as I don’t have a dog running through the crops I feel a bit smug. I probably look a bit weird, granted. Staring at a bit of hedge and using my phone to tell all my followers on Twitter -including Tod the experimental musician in Ohio, who must have clicked follow by mistake, about my find. But not as weird as Camo Man.
When I turned around there was a guy, in camouflaged jacket and trousers standing with his back to a Beech tree on the footpath. Holding an air-rifle, the sound of which I had vaguely heard when I was watching the Redstart. Having got over my gun phobia last year when I bumped into two guys similarly dressed claiming to be gamekeepers deer hunting on my patch near Causey Arch (they had serious hunting rifles) I was not impressed. So when he sternly commented on me not being on the footpath I retaliated. I deliberately suppressed the news of the best bird to be found in Gateshead that day.
I then pissed on his fireworks by standing on the path and continuing to bird. I don’t know if he was up shooting rabbits or not but he eventually got back in his four wheel drive (registration noted for the future) and went off.