This week there has been a change. Probably, I have had a chance to spend more time in NZ26 or perhaps I have decided that the third part of the challenge remains unfulfilled.
• We have a league table with me firmly at the bottom
• I have managed to cover most of the tetrads in most of the months and enter 5000+ records on BirdTrack
• But there is still that rarity to find.
One sound that reminded me of this search is the contact call of Blue Tits. At this time of year as pairs and groups flick through trees they keep in touch with a high pitched call like two tiny pieces of metal being struck together. They do it during the winter as well but this week with the misty mornings, the east wind and the contact calls let you know that there is something out there. There are several places in Tetrad B that show promise so before work I do the Durham Wildlife Trust field South of Scotswood Bridge and after work the scrubby area east of Costco.
Whilst the field has started to see an increase in Goldfinches, it’s the scrubby area that has been exciting. In Spring I reported the fact that all the trees on the site had been felled and shredded. The summer has pushed up waist-high to chest-high regrowth of birch, willow and poplar. By midweek this held an active tit/warbler flock picking through the left overs of another flying ant day. Generally forming a nomadic slow moving group this tended to hide the hyperactivity as the Chiffchaffs chased each other past the more thoughtful Willow Warblers. Not rare but exciting for what was an empty space after the deforestation. An approachable Lesser Redpoll was the first test of Martin Garner’s new challenge book, the primer for the white ones I will find in the next few months.
Chiffchaffs have generally been very vocal this week and gave me the idea that I still had a chance for a full sweep of tetrads if I could find one in Blakelaw. It is a pretty in-hospitable tetrad for its 26 species and there is really only one place to look for passerines -the hedge that runs the eastern boundary of the A1. I did pick up two new species here –Goldcrest and Coal Tit, but the Chiffchaff had to wait until I reached the Northumbria Police complex across the bridge where one was singing. I have not been for three months and the grassy area to the South of here is being redeveloped by KeepMoat, so the Meadow Pipit I got in the spring was probably the last for that site.
The warbler challenge (one in each tetrad) was a minor in year spur to ensure coverage of each tetrad. I did this quickly in April with a Willow Warbler singing in Blakelaw. Now though as the summer finally runs through my fingers it might be useful to reflect on what my warbler figures look like:
Willow Warbler 15
Garden Warbler 4
Sedge warbler 2
Reed Warbler 2
Lesser Whitethroat 1
Species per Tetrad
x6 f, j, p
x5 a; g; q; w; z
x3 e; k; m; s; t;
x2 d; h; l; n; r; u; v; x; y
x1 c; i
As for the rarity it will have to wait but a Whinchat on town Moor at least got me a new NZ26 tick #116. The true star of the week was outside the square and a could not resist twitch to see the 1St summer male Red-Footed Falcon north of Cresswell. What a truly fabulous bird -part hovering kestrel part, mammal as it chased insects through the grass before returning to the fence line to eat and search again. After an hour it moved closer to the watchers by sitting on the overhead wires by the road where we all stood. With high powered optics there was no need for everyone to move towards it and it was inevitable that a photographer was going to get too close to the ‘chagrin’ of those late arrivals.
It had spent from early morning to late afternoon away from the site and before it returned there was the usually birder banter. One thing that surprised me was the complaints about the lack of waders in Northumberland. This was a repetitive theme and getting a bit boring. Whilst NZ26 has not had the Black-winged Pratincole or Pect.Sands. of Northumberland the last 8 weeks by the Tyne have been great for watching waders. OK limited numbers but close up excitement, especially this week with nine Black-tailed Godwits arguing amongst themselves on Timber Beach.