The song of the nightingale

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.

Nightingale at Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park: photo by Ian Forrest

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.

Mistle thrush and ring ouzel in Bollihope

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!

The stone-curlew near Saltholme – more scrawny than handsome! Photo by Ian Forrest

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.

Bluebells in the Forest of Dean near Parkend

Particular thanks to Ian Forrest for two of the images here. For the image sources, click here for the nightingale and here for the stone-curlew.

3 thoughts on “The song of the nightingale

  1. Superb! What a county we have! On another subject, parish life here continues to grow. Two men came with me to a Cursillo weekend and were greatly blessed. We’d love to have you visit again!

    • Hi David, yes I think Durham is a great county for nature watching! Glad parish life is growing. It would be great to visit – let’s email or facebook. What’s a Cursillo weekend?? Rich

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