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Tales of a Botanical Birder (1 Viewer)

29th May. Yes, at last summer had seemed to have arrived today, with sun and warmth. I wasn’t taking any chances however and my waterproofs were in the bag anyway, but I’m happy to say they were not required during our walk in the Wolsingham area of Durham and Tunstall Reservoir. The morning started well with an en route Red Kite flying closely overhead. Swallows and to a lesser extent Swifts were never far away during the day. Our initial walk took us along the riverside, through woods, gorge and open farmland before joining more woodland. Leaves had thickened on trees now so whilst bird song was with us all of the time picking up sightings were not easy. Willow Warblers and Chaffinch were the most often heard birds with only an occasional Chiffchaff song. Once into the woods and having chatted to some campers I admired the view down below to the river. I might not have been so keen to check for Kingfishers below if I had seen what I saw on the return walk. Parts of the area were overhanging a steep shear drop, at least some of the overhang looking as though it was ready to crumble. Flowers of remembrance had been placed on a tree here and we couldn’t help wonder if in fact someone had fallen to their death here!

Whilst we were finding it rather frustrating trying to sight birds I heard a high pitch squack and commented as to what it was. Seconds later a Tawny Owl flew through the wood seemingly being chased by a Wood Pigeon. A fleeting view, but never the less an exciting one. Once into the open farmland there were good views across the valley and some strange breeds of sheep, one breed seeming to have dreadlocks! The brief call of a Cuckoo was heard at some point. Whilst exploring another wood we thought we had found Pied Flycatchers but it turned out the the nesting box was occupied by Blue Tits. A little further on however we did find Pied Flycatchers who appear to have nested in another of the boxes. No sign of Wood Warbler however, but I did see Grey Squirrel when looking for what had been one of our target birds. Then after admiring some of the flora it was time for a lunch stop in the sun before returning to our starting point. On the return good views were had of Curlew, Common Buzzard, Blackcap, Grey and Pied Wagtail and Jay. Unfortunately my two companions missed the Jay as they were to busy getting out of the way of an approaching car. One of the few we had actually seen on our walk. Although I had heard Blackcap on several occasions this had been my first decent sighting of one this year. Once back at the car we left for Tunstall Reservoir and more fine woodland.

It was wonderful to walk across the dam in the heat of the sun and we found Goldfinch. There were numbers of Greylag Geese on the water and a single Moorhen about. At the edge of the wood land I got my eye on some Orchids, which may well be Early Purple Orchids Orchis mascula. I’d been taking one or two photos of flora but these were behind a wall. I wasn’t to be defeated so I jumped over the high wall. Well to be honest the jump was a rather laborious crawl, but I got there. After all my exertions in the heat of the afternoon the flippin photo has lost the colour of the Orchid which was deep purple with the stem green, but turning to purple just below the flower head. It had no spots on the leaves. I have yet to check it out properly in my book. Anyway I digress. The wood seemed quiet at the start, but the bird song soon came with some flourish. Incidentally on a previous visit less than a fortnight ago the Bugle Ajuga reptans was barely in flower, but now the woodland floor was dotted with blue.

A Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard and then a male bird was seen really well on a couple of occasions. Nuthatch and Treecreepers were found along with Chaffinch, Robin, and Blackbird, Blue and Great Tits and a Song Thrush could be heard singing. At least two pairs of Spotted Flycatchers were seen. We did finally hear very briefly the song of the Wood Warbler and that is good enough for me so tis on the year list! Unfortunately we didn’t find the Redstarts on this occasion much to the consternation of one of my companions. We walked right around the reservoir on this occasion and I found that there is a small but interesting pool and wetland at the far end. There was only Greylag and Mallard there today, both with chicks, but I reckon it will be worth exploring again. We did see Goosander flying away.

There had been some very good and interesting flora today of which I shall list some for you keen botanists. Meadow Buttercup Ranunculus acris, Goldilocks Buttercup Ranunculus auricomus, Columbine Aquilegia vulgaris, Welsh Poppy Meconopsis cambrica, Red Campion Silene dioica, Lesser Stitchwort Stellaria graminea, Common Bistort Persicaria bistorta, Primrose Primula vulgaris, Yellow Pimpernel Lysimachia nemorum, Trailing Tormentil Potentilla erecta, Wild Strawberry Fragaria vesca, Water Avens Geum rivale, Lady’s Mantle species, Smooth Tare, Vicia tetrasperma, Wood Cranesbill Geranium sylvaticum, Herb Robert, Geranium robertianum, Pignut Conopodium majus, Germander Speedwell Veronica chamaedrys, Woodruff Galium odoratum, Crosswort Cruciata laevipes, Lilly of the Valley Convallaria majalis, Wild Garlic Allium ursinum Common Cow-wheat Melampyrum pratense and Wood Sorrel Oxalis acetosella

The Common Cow-wheat is an interesting plant as it has an interesting relationship with ants. It produces a sugary liquid from small glands under its petals, which wood ants feed on. The ants take the seeds to their nests and thus disperse them.

Well I have had quite a hectic birding and botanising month in May, of which this was my last trip of that period. I’m pleased it ended with sun, a year tick in Wood Warbler and several new wildflowers for my list. The day had also included Orange Tip Butterfly, Peacock, Red Admiral, Green Veined White and Speckled Wood Butterfly, and a Brown Hare on the return drive. A very good day!

Photos 1)Columbine 2) Wood Cranesbill 3) Woodruff 4) Common Cow-wheat 5) Yellow Pimpernel


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