Saturday, 4 July 2009

Thornley Woods and Sunny Gateshead

We decided to try all the hides that are run by Gateshead Council so we arrived at Thornley Woods Centre at 9.30 to buy the key which would let us into all the hides, (should have read the website properly) it was closed. We looked at each other and were thinking of where to go when a young lady appeared wearing a council type uniform. Brushing my hair through my fingers, pouting and sucking in the stomach I said that I had misread the instructions and thought the centre had opened at 9 not 12 as I had just found out, she asked what the problem was and I told her. She said no problem, she would go back into the centre and get me a key (Hallelujah to Gateshead Council and their employees).

Of we went and eventually found the first hide, I was amazed at what was in front of me, even for a beginner, I did recognize straight away, Jays, Yellowhammers, various Tits, a Woodpecker, Chaffinches, Robins and about 5 Red Squirrels. All these I saw in the first 60 seconds. We stayed about an hour then had to drag ourselves away as we wanted to visit each one of the sites just to find out where they were. See couple photos below.

Far Pastures was next, we went in and there were 6 guys and 1 lady there, they all had cameras with lenses bigger than Brigette Neilsens inside leg, I kept my Fuji Finepix S8100fd close to my chest. Nobody spoke a word for 20 mins, saw nothing at all then heard the word Kingfisher mentioned. Now, nothing against these fine lads but I have bumped into a couple of people before in the very South of Durham who were there to look for Kingfishers, nothing else, just Kingfishers. I told them that we had never actually seen one, the disbelief was amazing. Then thats all they talked about for an hour, whilst I was happily snapping a couple of mallards, coots etc. We said our goodbyes, actually I grunted it was time for food and left.

Off we went to Lamesley Pastures, not difficult to find, nobody there and at first seemed like it was very quiet but I am learning a bit now and started scanning the distance with my new Spotting Scope. Eventually found a few birds then within 20mins the place was alive with allsorts. Carole and I spent 20 mins discussing this flock of about 60 birds half of which were black with lots of white on and the other all black. We eventually thought the black and white ones were lapwings and the all black ones we dont know. Have a look at photo and see what you think thats providing anyone out there reading my blog knows what I am on about.

Off then to Clara Vale, eventually found the hides with help of local lady and her dog, the track for the hide by the cricket pitch is harder to find but after spending half an hour in there we saw a few tits, chaffinch, moorhen, mallard and heard many songs but still cant identify any yet apart from the obvious ones that everyone knows, Cuckoo and Magpie.

Went to the second hide, the smell was overpowering, someone had left 2 big boxes of appples in there (last entry in book was 20 Jun) and some of them were well done on Gas Mark 8. Not knowing whether birds like rotten apples we scattered a few of the better ones around. We had noticed a sign saying that feeding had been suspended in the summer months. After 30 mins not a thing had stirred so we tidied the hide up a bit then left, heading for Shibdon Pond. Into the hide no problem today, loads of birds around and spent a happy hour watching them. Then headed along to the bit where all the birds come for a slice of Warburtons Wholemeal. Watched my wife feed them with them all flocking around her when all of a sudden they all took off like a tornado. Immediately into view came this Tyson dog, you know, the one with the chest harness with the big metal motif on the front. It charged into the water but by this time 2 swans were up and hissing at it, following behind the dog the family arrived, the young teenager son was very apologetic and immediately got it onto a lead, the mother was muttering that the dog was a free wild creature like the birds and had as much right to attack them as they had to attack him and anyway no harm had been done but their dog had got wet. I then remonstrated with her but to no avail, she stated that I did not own the birds so I could go away!! The son had taken the dog away and as I left he again apologised. We then headed back to Thornley and after a quick visit we went home.

Apart from the last incident a good day was had by all.
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