Part of the fun of bird-watching is the unexpected. Early last week it was reported that a nightingale had turned up at Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park, just north of Stockton – the first seen in Durham for about thirty years. On Friday evening I made my way down there, followed the instructions for its location (“between the second and third bridges across the beck”), and found three other birders already there, staring at a hawthorn bush.
I’m not good on bird-song, but there was no mistaking the nightingale when its song emerged from deep within the hawthorn: loud, clear, pure sounds – lots of repeated phrases and trills. It was magnificent. I didn’t expect to see it, but we noticed it move briefly, and then for about half a minute it sat on the edge of a branch, giving superb views. Ian Forrest, one of those there, took the photo shown here – an excellent shot of an elusive bird.
On Saturday I decided to walk up Bollihope Burn, in Weardale – partly for a walk, and partly to try and see ring ouzels – which look like blackbirds with white bibs. Although scarce, this valley is one of the hotspots for them: but I’d been on four trips previously, without success – admittedly either the wrong place or the wrong time. I was therefore all set for another futile trip, but about quarter of a mile up the burn I glimpsed one in flight – and then a few minutes later saw one very clearly by the stream. I took the photograph here of a second one as a record of the occasion – not a great photo by any stretch, but after four futile trips the delight at seeing it so clearly was greatly enhanced!
An unexpected extra sighting was of a stone-curlew, which really is a rarity in these parts. As it happened I only needed to take a short detour on Sunday morning after leaving church, driving out near to the RSPB reserve at Saltholme. I thought my chances of seeing the bird were fairly remote, but I noticed a couple of guys by the roadside peering through a gap in the hedge, so I parked nearby and joined them. “Had any luck trying to locate the stone-curlew?” I asked. “Yes”, they replied, “and it’s in the scope now” – and there it was! It spent most of the time resting with its back to us, but we saw enough of it to be sure what it was.
A couple of days before driving back to Durham, I took Mum on a trip to the Forest of Dean, during which we came across this spectacular display of bluebells near Parkend.