N&TBC Field Trip to the South West on 8th September 2002

A misty start greeted us as we assembled at Blanchland but it looked as if it would soon brighten up. The first visit was to the Beldon Burn where we parked at Baybridge and walked about 3km to the edge of Newbiggin Fell. Kestrels were everywhere with a total of about 15 on this section. Five Common Buzzards also drifted over the fell and two Sparrowhawks gave good views. A pair of Stonechat in the heather was a surprise, indicating how much they are colonising the moorland areas. Back on lower ground, flocks of 40 Lesser Redpoll and 30 Siskin were seen and a Chiffchaff was singing. A decision to have lunch at Baybridge, rather than on the higher moors, proved profitable as a juvenile Hobby powered its way right over us at low altitude.

With the South Tyne as the eventual target, we moved over the moors seeing one more Kestrel and two Wheatear at Hunstanworth Moor on the way to Wolfcleugh, deep in County Durham, where we stopped by the old mine. These old ruins always seem attractive to birds and before long we had seen a Merlin pursuing a Meadow Pipit and three more Kestrels. A stop at Allenheads failed to locate any Black Grouse but the next one near Coalcleugh on the Cumbrian border produced some very tame Red Grouse, another Wheatear and a Kestrel.

The weather became positively sunny as we arrived near Eals in the South Tyne in mid-afternoon. A late Sand Martin accompanied the general southwards drift of hirundines and pipits. Kestrels (ten in total) and Common Buzzards (five) were very conspicuous and another juvenile Hobby flew low down the valley. An adult Peregrine gave good views as it flew south and the day was capped with close views of two Ravens following the same path.

In all about 45 species were seen. The day's total for the six species of raptor was 30 Kestrel, ten Common Buzzard, two Sparrowhawk, two Hobby, one Merlin and one Peregrine. If we had started in the Bywell/Riding Mill area, which had been a possibility, then we might have had a seventh as a satellite-tracked Honey Buzzard from Inverness was present in Riding Mill at 09:57 the same day!

Nick Rossiter (leader of field trip)

Above is extract from September 2002 bulletin of the Northumberland & Tyneside Bird Club

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