A late start as Howdon Blogger had trouble getting his head off the pillow so i wasn't picked up in Segedunum untill 5.03 a.m. Off we set for the Langdon Beck area on our quest to see the Black Grouse Lek. On the way we passed Raby Castle and revelled in the sight of huge numbers of Red and Fallow Deer chilling and chomping on the front lawn. What a start to the day, how were we going to top that? On we went and soon were following the path of the Tees. The Langdon Beck Hotel appeared and the directions said "after 600 metres turn right, then on past the cattle grid and look down into the valley below"..........they weren't wrong. Although there was heavy drizzle and the mist hung close to the contours of the surrounding hills, that unmistakable "bubbling" sound could be heard and through the gloom 12 strutting Blackcocks and a lone Greyhen could be made out. I immediately got a lump in my throat, and although because of the mist the views weren't brilliant somehow the birds shone through. Something else caught my eye and there in amongst the Grouse was a tented hide. The birds seemed oblivious to it and continued there frantic displaying, in fact at one point one of the males jumped up on top of the hide and continued his " Jagger on speed " impersonation. We must have been 150-200 metres away but i almost felt part of it. If that wasn't birding heaven in itself...........you won't believe it but a Woodcock was on the ground not more than 8 metres away!!!!!!! I didn't know where to look. The Woodcock sat for a minute or two then started sloping off across the field and slowly disappeared. I turned my attention back to the Grouse and John and i watched for.......i don't know how long. The mist did lift slightly and the stuff coming out of the sky altered between rain and hale intermittently ( well it is May ) but i didn't manage any decent images of the Black Grouse, however i did manage this shot of the Woodcock.
The rest of the morning was spent touring the area taking in Cow Green Reservoir and passing over Harwood Beck spotting numerous species all of which can be read on Howdon Bloggers blog.( i hope )
Early afternoon we moved on to Derwent Reservoir. I'm not a great one for sitting in hides but i must admit it was nice to get out of that nithering wind. My first time and although it wasn't teeming with birds it is a very nice place to visit. Nothing startling was seen BUT we did hear a Cuckoo. Whittle Dene on the homeward journey and i heard my first GREAT SCREAMING LITTLE BIRDER. As John climbed out of the car to view the Common Terns he unfortunately left his thumb in the door. OUCHY!!!!!!!! When he climbed back in i could feel the glow coming from said thumb and i swear i could hear it throbbing.
I look forward to closer views of Black Grouse but the memory of my first sight of the Lek AND the bonus of that Woodcock will linger in the memory banks for a long time.
A sad note from the trip was the sight firstly of a dead Mole hanging on barbed wire above a 3ft wall beside a recently tilled piece of ground at a property in Durham. Having just recovered from that sickening sight, another 20 metres along the wall a further dozen Moles in varying states of decay were also "on display" . Some people are despicable.