Teesdale and Grouse

The changed plan to meet at Langdon Beck at 7 a.m. rather than setting off from York at that time for the club’s trip to Teesdale yesterday (9th April) proved a success. The Black Grouse lek was underway with 18 males displaying and later peaking at 21 when five grey hens showed some interest. In good light and fair weather, they put on a superb show for almost two hours, though they were fairly distant. The black cocks squared up to each other, jumped about, show their lyre-shaped tails and white undertails and we could hear their bubbling calling. If we had met at the original time we would have missed most of this.

And, it wasn’t just the grouse that we displaying, Snipe, Curlew, Lapwing and Redshank gave us a treat too as well as singing Skylarks and parachuting Meadow Pipits. While the four members who had stayed at the pub overnight tucked into their late breakfast, the other 11 walked down the hill, picking up signs of spring with Chiffchaff and Willow Warblers singing while a couple of flocks of Fieldfare reminded us some of our winter visitors are still with us. Along the beck we had good views of Grey Wagtail and Dipper, with Sand Martins overhead. More surprisingly, there was a House Martin around the pub and later we had, for many, the first Swallow of the year. On the botanical front, the landlady of the pub had given directions to some early flowering Spring Gentians, the vibrant blue flowers of five plants stood out on a grassy bank. Walking back up the hill, three people were lucky to see a Woodcock fly into the wood.

We then headed up to the quarry on the road to Weardale, Wheatear and a female Ring Ouzel were picked up but it was windy and overrun with motorcycles so we drove round to Bollihope Burn, a new site for many of us. Here were more Ring Ouzels and Wheatears. Then we returned to Teesdale to finish off with some woodland birds, more Dippers and another Swallow at Bowlees. It was a great day out with almost 60 species.

Rob Chapman