Tuesday, 28 April 2015


Recent days around Branton Ponds have seen an influx of warblers, first we had the Chiffchaffs which were then overtaken  by the Willow Warblers, now Blackcaps are here in large numbers, there seems to be a bird on territory almost every 50 yards. This evening we came across the first Garden Warbler of the year, sounding a bit like Blackcap but a bit more monotonous, on Monday we had a first for the ponds in the form of a Wood Warbler with both it's very distinctive shape and song which sounds like a spinning coin gradually coming to rest on a table, it was still there this morning. Another warbler which just arrived yesterday is the Common Whitethroat with one bird calling from the gorse, this evening there were a further two birds, so all we need now are Lesser Whitethroat and Grasshopper Warbler then the set will be complete.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Upper Teesdale in spring

Upper Teesdale in spring
A fairly early start saw us at Langdon Beck at the sensible hour of  7.00 am, some may say that is too late but a showing of 24 Blackcock and 6 Greyhens proved that the early bird doesn't always catch the worm. The noise was incredible on a very still, crisp and sunny morning, not only were there Black Grouse but also Curlew with their beautiful "bubbling" call, Redshank and even a Woodcock which looked totally out of place. We then headed to Cowgreen Reservoir where more Black Grouse were to be found ( the total for the day was 43 Blackcock and 11 Greyhen), overhead Common Snipe were "drumming"as the air vibrated against their outer tail feathers, the Wheatears were almost too numerous to count as they "chacked " away on the hillside. The next to appear on the stage was a Short Eared Owl, silently quartering the moor, setting up nervous Red Grouse and all to the constant, plaintive whistling of Golden Plover. The day ended as it had began with a Black Grouse, this time a very impressive male standing on a picnic table near the reservoir, a great end to a stunning morning.

Saturday, 11 April 2015


Well spring must have finally sprung, a walk around Branton Ponds  this morning in less than ideal conditions (cold and windy) revealed a number of spring migrants, the best being more than half a dozen Swallows feeding over the water with at least 100 Sand Martins. Also of note were a small number of Meadow Pipits heading for the hills, a singing Blackcap and numerous Chiffchaffs doing what it says on the tin, meanwhile on the water Little Grebes were calling and a pair of Great-crested Grebe were doing their courtship display.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Ring Ouzel

Our first opportunity to check out the Harthope Valley for returning migrants didn't look too hopeful; the Meadow Pipits were back in good numbers indulging in their characteristic parachute displays, and Red Grouse exploded from the heather hillside with their 'Go-back, go-back' calls, but there were no signs as yet of Wheatears or the elusive Mountain Blackbird. Having walked up a side valley for half a mile or so, we stopped for five minutes to bask in the warm sunshine. Suddenly the faint but clear liquid calls of our target floated across from the far side of the valley. In a small bush we tracked down a "blackbird" in the scope, facing away from us, but it obligingly turned round to reveal its beautiful white crescent for a moment or two before flying across to the opposite side and soon disappeared from sight.