Howdon Blogger picked me up in SEGEDUNUM at 6.00 a.m. Sunday morning and off we went. No, not a weight watchers meeting but Harwood Forest, Winters Gibbet specifically. Bright but very breezy in a chill wind at this stage and as we approached the gibbet itself the small silhouette of a bird could be picked out. John rattled off a few shots on his camera but as i fumble to change settings from the previous evening the bird lifted and flew off. Bugger! The target species which i could just about make out had gone and i had no record. And anyone who birds and likes to have a record of a sighting knows usually the second chance doesn't come round too often. Scoured the area for a further hour or so with no luck, we decided to press on towards what looked to be an interesting spot on the O.S map at Todholes. Unfortunately, but for a rather impressive Rookery there, ran out of road and decided to call back to the Gibbet before pressing on to Caistron.
Back at the Gibbet, nothing showing again so with heavy hearts set off again but as we did John slowed the car down then finally stopped. He struggled to swing round and get his camera off the back seat it which point i noticed a bird quite happily feeding on the road. AAAAAAHHHHH! It was the species we had hoped for. Not wanting to disturb it , John turned off the engine and started to let the car roll forward for a couple of foot then brake. Another couple of foot, brake again. This tactic worked a treat and as i took some RECORD SHOTS through the windscreen the bird disappeared from my view. John wound his window down, slowly leant out and pressed his cameras button. Sitting there rather frustrated i nudged him and suggested he took my camera and filmed the bird with mine. This we did for a few minutes, alternating cameras before the shadow of the car disturbed the bird and it lifted. That nice glow descended over me as i checked to see what JOHN had captured. The Crossbill, the bird in question was stunning. On the way to Caistron we stopped off a number of times, viewing the scenery as much as birding. The sound of Skylarks, Lapwings, which were displaying also, Oystercatcher and Curlew rose above the din of the wind which was still strong at this elevation. Nice to see the waders returning to the uplands to breed, birds i had been watching at the coast at St. Marys Island last week. As we dropped down it was time for lunch so we stopped off at a picnic area on the side of Grasslees Burn. Before we could get out bait out i spotted a Treecreeper and walked over to enjoy views of the lovely little bird. As it flicked from tree to tree spiralling up before it moved on John spotted a second. They came alongside each other, and as they did 4 Long-tailed Tits dropped down into the branches of the same tree. Absolutely precious. On to Caistron and we did a full circuit of the Lake calling into 7 of the 8 hides. Plenty of Canadas, a number of Greylags also on the goose front. Mute Swans, stunning Goldeneye, Tufted Ducks, Mallard, a pair of Shellduck were on the water along with a duck i haven't seen much of, Gadwall. Away from the main lake on one of the small ponds some more Gadwall, Coot, Moorhen and a sound which brought a smile to my face, first one then a second Little Grebe calling. A sound which to me means possibly no more sitting overlooking waterfowl freezing the old Albert Halls off.
A cracking afternoon, with a nice stroll out and about and nice views of the River Coquet also. On the way home a diversion to Prestwick Carr was suggested and the idea was taken up straight away. A nice way to end a brill. day watching an Owl or two quartering away in the fading spring sunshine. As we headed there the skies blackened and the heavens opened. John and i looked at each other but i knew we were going to press on. Then, not one but two rainbows came out side by side and the cloud lightened. On arrival at Prestwick we were joined by PC Wanderings first and by City Birding next. A right old mothers meeting. It was quietish but i spotted a Buzzard in the trees on the Carr, a bird that Peter knew well as it has a very light breast colouring, then within a very short space of time a Short-eared Owl made a show but put down fairly quickly. Peter and John observed a Barn Owl hunting by the main road for a brief moment but it also disappeared, not to be seen again. Meanwhile the S.E.Owl went up again briefly, the Buzzard dropped down onto a post but the light was going at this stage and i decided that at 6.45 p.m. that the knees and back were telling me to give it a rest. I suggested this to John amidst mutterings of part timers and lightweight birders. After all we had only done 12 hours and 45 mins. since setting off this morning.