Thursday, 4 February 2016

Return of the Odd Couple.

It's been great getting out with my old sparring partner THE Howdon Blogger . It had been months rather than weeks due to his better halves ill health but hopefully it will be more often. The last two Saturday morning we have gone to the Derwent River area, initially to see the Starlings leaving their roost at Shibdon Pond, but also to call at one of our favourite spots on the Derwent where there is a small island where there is shallow fast water around it and a small vertical bank on one side. It's about the best place i know of locally for Dippers but Grey Wagtails, Goosanders & Sand Martins are regulars and while we've been there the last couple of weeks it turns out sightings of Otter have been made, something i didn't know of, but look forward to. The only downside to the Derwent visit is that it is on a very popular dog walking & cycling route and as the morning progresses it gets busy so the earlier we get there the better. Rounding off at Far Pastures where you more often than not see more around the car park than from the hide despite the nice body of water and reed beds that are there but lack the management it once had due to cutbacks.
We were slightly too late on our first visit to Shibdon and although saw the Starlings leave the pond weren't in the position i had hoped for. We did get there early enough last week and it was a fabulous experience that was over all too fast. It did last for 10 / 15 minutes from the Starlings first movements around the reeds to them leaving. I had been told by local "expert" George Simpson (if you search his name of You Tube you will see his morning & evening videos of the past weeks, great footage of the murmurations on numerous occasions) that up to 4 Sparrowhawks could lie in wait and the Starlings know this and moved about the reed beds constantly before departing. I'm not talking hundreds here but thousands of birds moving about the reeds is quite a sight in itself. Two large groups numbering thousands left intially within 30 seconds of each other with 2 Sparrowhawks in the air with them. George, who we spoke to just after, had a Sparrowhawk landing on the boardwalk close by with a squealing Starling in its grip before despatching it then flying off. Other groups of 20, 30 40 ish left over the next ten minutes. We stood wondering which was the best strategy.
Only the one Dipper on the Derwent this week but last Saturday we had four, two of which displayed and called, with a third in close attendance. A fallen tree where the Dippers were is slightly further upstream and away from the noise of the faster water so the sounds they made were the best i had ever heard. Unfortunately the branches of the tree stopped us getting any images of the event. I did however get a pleasing shot of a male Kestrel that landed on the island and ratched around in the undergrowth looking for a bite to eat.
Looking for his bait.


  1. Divent menshun sparring, I thought ye were ganna box my lugs for not ganning oot with ya

  2. Divent menshun sparring, I thought ye were ganna box my lugs for not ganning oot with ya

  3. LOL.
    Seconds out , round 1. DING DING