Saturday, 11 April 2009

My Lost Hour- Dusk Chorus

Having worked all day and with the family on a day away up at Budle Bay and Bamburgh beach, I took the opportunity to lose an hour or two birding. Fooled by the evening sunshine I headed for Church Point, Newbiggin to have a look on the sea. I shouldn't have bothered a cold Southerly and a handful of Herring Gull were my reward, although a year tick in the form of a single Razorbill was overdue.
I nipped back inland and had a wander around some of the local ponds at Woodhorn and Bothal, the former holding five Northern Shoveler and a single Whooper Swan whilst the latter was very quiet except for a very noisy Tree Sparrow in the roadside trees.
With the sun rapidly dropping I thought I'd drive around Longhirst Flash and Ulgham Lane looking for Long-eared Owl. I have had a pair a few years back around this area that would hunt just before dusk although those individuals may be long gone now. I checked a few of the small plantations from the car without success so I parked under the bridge at Crowden Lane and climbed up onto the old mining road adjacent to the woodland, a good vantage point for the surrounding area.
Still light enough for three Chiffchaff to be singing in a 700m stretch of wood as well as my first singing Willow Warbler of the year. You don't hear much about the 'Dusk Chorus' but it was lively along the woodland edge tonight with Blackbird and three Song Thrush as well as a couple of Robins belting out their song. I came away with the impression that the Song Thrush 'song' was more varied here than the urban fringe Song Thrush I hear at home or work, whether this was because there were several singing together or genuine I'm unsure.
I reached the far end of the wood and set up scope looking along the Western edge. Several Common Pheasant and a Brown Hare fed in the grass adjacent to the wood. A small bird that called 'tack' a couple of times may have been a Blackcap but it only called twice amid thick scrub. Behind me looking North a Barn Owl flew with languid wing beats down a hedgeline some 500m away. Moments later two male Tawny Owl called back and forth just inside the wood.
Crowden is well named as it still holds a nightly corvid roost, Carrion Crows and Jackdaws began to drop in, the Crows paired, the Jackdaws in groups of six-eight. The Jackdaws engaged in some pre-roost aerobatics, small groups mixing together till there were c150 birds, swirling and calling loudly around the nearby fields, this went on for ten-fifteen minutes pre-dusk.
A Woodcock moved East to West with a more rapid direct flight, wings fluttering periodically, it came back on it's roding circuit a few minutes later.

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