This morning we had the best catch of the year in the Souter Moth Trap. Mind you, thats not really that difficult cos its been an absolutely rubbish year so far. There were 40+ individual Moths from 15 different species, but the undoubted highlight was this absolutely stunning POPLAR HAWKMOTH (above). Its only the second time I've ever seen one of these incredible Moths, and the only species of Hawkmoth I've seen in the UK. Other highlights included Buff Ermine, Angle Shades and my first ever Ghost Moth.
On Wednesday lunchtime I decided to pop over to Whitburn Coastal Park to have a quick look at how the Ponds were doing. It had been nearly a fortnight since I was last there so a visit was long overdue! The rain was coming down heavily when I pulled up, so I decided to have my sandwich in the car and hope for a break in the weather. After about 15 minutes the rain hadn't stopped but it had eased enough for me to get out the car and go for a wander. The North Pond was very quiet, with only a couple of Tufted Ducks present, and as I approached the South Pond things initially didn't look a whole lot better. That was until some movement on the left of the Pond caught my eye! I knew straight away that it was a Wader, but as I focused my binoculars on the feeding figure it suddenly dawned on me I was watching a Greenshank! My jaw dropped and my heartbeat quickened. I was totally and utterly gobsmacked. A Greenshank was on our Pond! A Greenshank was feeding on our brand new, recently created Pond!!! This was amazing. Now don't get me wrong, I know a Greenshank isn't an absolute mega rarity for Britain, but it IS an extremely scarce bird for South Tyneside. And the fact that one was here on one of our Ponds that had only been complete since March was superb news. When we were in the original planning stage of the project, Greenshank was one of the species we had in mind when we were designing the Pond. And now, after all the hard work, one was actually gracing our Pond. And it felt great. It pretty much justified everything we had done and proved something we had known all along, if we created the environment the birds would come. And for this particular species to arrive so soon after completion is the dream becoming reality. Hopefully, this is just the beginning.
I had actually intended to have a much needed lie in this morning, but I found myself wide awake and restless so decided to get up and make the most of the nice weather. I headed off to one of my favourite places of all time, Tunstall Reservoir, in the hope of seeing some of our more elusive summer woodland birds. The beauty of this place never fails to amaze me, and on a lovely warm summer morning the place is glorious. And on this glorious morning the place was alive with birds! There are four particular species that Tunstall is famous for, and the first of these species I got within seconds of arriving. As I walked up the path approaching the woodland I immediately heard the very distinct song of one of the countys scarcest breeding Warblers, the Wood Warbler. I was absolutely thrilled, as its three years since I've seen this species here. It took a little while for me to actually track the bird down, but eventually it hopped onto a branch merely feet away from me and began trilling its little heart out. I decided to soak it up as much as I could cos this species is getting harder and harder to see in our parts and you never know how often I'll see it again. I enjoyed it for almost half an hour before it eventually flew away out of sight. I then turned to head further into the wood when species number two popped out in front of me, the Spotted Flycatcher! What a start to the morning! As I stood watching the Flycatcher a Cuckoo called just to my right. I quickly turned to see the bird land and start calling in plain view. This was amazing! The Cuckoo took off when it realised I was close by, and the Flycatcher also flew off into the foliage. The third special species was found next, the Redstart. This was actually the most abundant of the famous four and was seen very well throughout the whole of the wood. The last of the four proved a whole lot more elusive though. In fact I was just about ready to turn around and head back out of the wood when I saw a flash of Black and White land in a tree to my right. I got my bins on it and was delighted to see a stunning male Pied Flycatcher singing its quiet song. It was swiftly joined by a female, and I saw that she was carrying food so I backed away and crouched behind a tree in silence. Within seconds both birds were seen going in and out of their nest. This went on for almost half an hour before I skirted round and left them to it. It was an absolute delight to witness, and headed back to the car with a bounce in my stride. But I had one more treat as I headed out of the wood, a pair of Tawny Owls flying silently over my head and perching in a tree close by before being harassed by a pair of Blackbirds and disappearing. This ended an incredible morning. Its not often you get mornings like this, when everything seems to just click, but when it does it feels absolutely wonderful!
No time to recover from the gruelling Cumbria trip, as I was out again straight away! This time myself, Steve and John Brown went to visit some more of Jimmy's various nest boxes scattered around the county. We targetted two totally contrasting species, Tree Sparrows and Kestrels! As nice as the Tree Sparrows were the highlight was easily the Kestrel chicks. We checked two different nest boxes and both had a healthy brood of chicks. While we were travelling we popped into Black Plantation where I saw my first Tree Pipit of the year and a couple of lovely male Redstarts.
This weekend will go down as one of the best weekends I've had in a long long time. On friday evening I finished work, loaded the car up and headed off to join Adrian, Lisa, Dougie and John Sullivan at a quiet little campsite in the Lake District, where we were hoping to spend the next couple of days Ringing one of Britains most majestic birds of prey, the Peregrine Falcon. Its a weekend I'd been looking forward to for absolutely ages and in no way did it disappoint. We had a possible 6 nests to visit, time permitting, and getting to them would be a huge test of my fitness - or lack of!!! To say the nest sites were in remote areas is a major understatement, some of them involved over an hours walk to reach. And then after that we had to scale some extremely steep and dangerous mountain crags. All of this while carrying a load of climbing gear which weighed a tonne, as Adrian had to abseil down to reach some of the nests. At times it was backbreaking stuff, and by the end of the trip I was seriously physically exhausted, but in the end it was all well worth it. The incredibly beautiful scenery alone would have made the trip worthwhile, but we were here for a reason. Due to poor weather on the last day, we only managed to visit 5 nests, and out of the 5 nests visited only 2 actually had chicks. This is more than likely due to the extremely bad spring we've had this year. But, 2 broods is better than no broods. In total we Ringed 6 chicks - 3 in each nest. Needless to say it was a total and utter thrill for me to get so close to these stunning birds, and Ringing my first chick will go down as one of the greatest highlights of my wildlife experiences. Its very difficult to put into words the emotions you're feeling when you do something like this, I think you have to actually experience it yourself to have any idea. But myself, John and Dougie all got so much out of the encounter, and we all went home utterly and ridiculously happy. Its something we'll all treasure for a very long time.
Yes, I admit it, I succumbed. I didn't particularly want to, didn't really intend to, but when I left work on the Tuesday night before the bank holiday weekend I drove down to Hartlepool to see the Orphean Warbler. I got the message while at work on the morning that the bird had been trapped and Ringed (jammy gits!!!) at the bowling green. I did consider going to see it if it was still around after work but to be honest I wasn't actually that bothered cos I'd seen a load in Portugal last year, so it wasn't a lifer for me. But then as I left work John Brown rang me and pretty much ordered me to go and see it, seeing as it was over 30 years since the last one was seen in the UK! I genuinely didn't realise how much of a rare bird this was in this country, so after Johns gentle push I decided I'd go. When I arrived there was still a considerable crowd for what was a mega twitch, and thankfully people pointed me in the direction of where the bird was roosting. So, bird successfully seen. But I fancied having a slightly better view so decided to hang around to see if it would wake up or something! It took 30mins for the lazy swine to actually move, but when it did it put on a great display flying around and feeding for the excited crowd. That was better! So it was worth going down after all, and meant I didn't have to wait another 30 years for the next one to turn up.