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Tales of a Botanical Birder (1 Viewer)

7th May. The day was sunny and warm as we left for Teesdale, Cotherstone, where the River Balder flows from the Pennines to meet the Tees, to be precise as this was the starting point of a seven mile walk of which a good part and I mean good in every sense, was to be through woodland on the banks of the River Tees. Teesdale is an area I have come to appreciate greatly over very recent years and I have yet to be disappointed with a visit there and today was to be no exception. During the outward drive the fields of Oil Seed Rape Brassica napus were lit beautifully by the sun and Swifts flew over Barnard Castle and certainly grew in numbers as the day went on.

As soon as we began the walk it was obvious that the flora was going to be good, but I wasn’t prepared for just how good. The woods were carpeted throughout with Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa, Wild Garlic Allium ursinum (a wonderful sight, but I can’t say that I enjoyed the pungent scent!), Bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scriptus, Red Campion Silene dioica and Wood Forgetmenot Myosotis sylvatica. Other wild flowers seen today included Marsh Marigold Caltha palustris, Common Chickweed Stellaria media, Violet (species), Primrose Primula vulgaris, Cowslip Primula veris, Cuckoo Flower Cardamine pratensis, White Dead Nettle, Lamium album Green Field Speedwell Veronica agrestis, Ribwort Plantain Plantago lanceolata, Lady’s Bedstraw Galium verum, Gorse Ulex europaeus, Butterbur Petasites hybridus Dog’s Mercury Mercurialis perennis, Cow Parsley Anthriscus sylvestris Daisies Bellis perennis and a multitude of Dandelions Taraxucum officinale everywhere making some areas look like a yellow carpet had been rolled out. Certainly one of my favourites was the delicate Wood Sorrel Oxalis acetosella often shooting up from the damp moss which made a wonderful background and showed them off to their best.

The early part of the walk through the woods was especially good for birds. Dipper was soon found. Pied Flycatcher, which had been hoped for, but I certainly wasn’t expecting such good sightings of four pairs, with the males actively singing in defence of the nesting sites. Blackcap was soon heard although I have to admit I only had sightings of this bird as it flew through the now increasingly leaved trees. Willow Warblers were well out numbered by the Chiffchaffs, or so the calls suggested, and we had excellent views of a pair of Spotted Flycatchers which we assumed had only very recently arrived, being one of our later arriving summer migrant visitors. In one small area of the wood we stood and watched at least two pairs and probably more Nuthatch, as Goldcrest fed in the trees. Another Nuthatch was seen further into the walk so I guess they are doing well in this area.

Views of the Tees could be glimpsed through the trees and other birds in this area included Wood Pigeon, Swallow, Wren, Robin, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch and Goldfinch. Once out into the open fields I had a glimpse of Green Woodpecker which vanished into the trees and then managed to fly off behind the hillock in the surrounding field. We stopped for lunch at this point, surrounded by Cowslips and the day was becoming hotter as House Martins had now joined the hunting Swallows and Swifts. Just as well that my flask had been filled with water rather than coffee. I just about made it last out the walk. We were soon off again and it wasn’t long before we were crossing the bridge over the Tees at our half way point and onward to a rather long drawn out upward stretch of the walk which in the heat was at times tiring especially where the steps had been put in obviously for the use of giants! All part of the enjoyment of a walk of course and the views made any effort put in well worthwhile. We stopped at a view point for about ten minutes until I began to fry in the heat. We had fantastic views both up and down the River Tees and a Jay added to the enjoyment. Curlews were seen in this area and an over flying Grey Heron also. The difficulties that our wildlife and farm animals face was brought home to us when we found a ewe, with a badly injured leg, caring for two lambs, and a very distressed corvid with broken wing trying vainly to take flight and collapsing in a heap each time.

Butterflies were around in numbers today especially Peacocks. Small Whites were numerous and several Small Tortoiseshells were seen. More than one Orange Tip were seen, but not by me.:-( I’m not sure if anyone is experienced in finding small butterflies on on the other side of rivers when the direction of ‘there it is’, is given. It ain’t easy! ;-)

As we approached the river we had sightings of Grey and Pied Wagtails. As we reached the end of the walk I felt as though I could have carried on but perhaps that was just relief. As we walked through the yellow gorse growing high above our heads the smell of coconut was strong and I caught sight of a Greenfinch. I mustn’t forget the Grey Partridge seen as we took a wrong turning. The wrong turning was meant to be I guess as I have been looking for the local Grey Partridges without success since the beginning of the year. A male Goosander flew down river and Dipper was seen again. We took some time to enjoy the views form the bridge in the area where the Balder joins the Tees.

Once back in the village I did ‘narf’ enjoy my can of orange from the post office, incidentally staffed by a couple who originated from my home area. They have chosen their move well. Swifts continued to fly overhead. Bird list for the day totalled 44 with 4 added to the year list, Grey Partridge, Green Woodpecker, Spotted Flycatcher and Pied Flycatcher. I think I shall probably return to Teesdale!


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