Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Birding Cumbria, August 9-16, 2014

Intrepid highland birding trio

Seathwaite Tarn - Sadly, no Ring Ouzels in sight
Typical Cumbrian 'sun-rain' weather
Wheatear country
  The weather was fickle, the sheep shit was thick on the ground, and the birding had a definite rugged highland feel, for a lovely week of birding/relaxing. I was based in an old cottage (former bobbin mill) in Ulpha, which is really in the middle of literal nowhere. The Duddon Valley, to be precise.
  On daily long walks up into the fells I ran into regular Meadow Pipits, rather shy Linnets, and slightly less-shy Northern Wheatears. I was well-chuffed (see, I'm learning the language) to finally see a wheatear - a bird with a lot of character, and long-awaited. As most birders know, 'wheatear' comes from an old word meaning 'white-ass', with good reason - the flash of white as they flush is unmistakeable at a distance. As I was flicking through wheatear section in the excellent Collins guide, I was relieved I don't live in the middle east or around the Mediterranean, as there are close to 20 species of wheatear that live in the area, many of them bafflingly similar. Wait, maybe I should be wishing I lived there, and had to deal with the 'problem' of having to pick through all those wheatears. No matter.
  Three notable dips were Ring Ouzel, White-throated Dipper, and Sedge Warbler. The Ring Ouzel was particularly heartbreaking, as I do enjoy a good Turdus thrush, and the Ring Ouzel is such a shy and spectacular bird, very specialized and local in its habits/habitat. I walked a site where they are known to breed, but life doesn't always give up its Ring Ouzels on the first go. Gee, that would make a great t-shirt, or perhaps line of motivational greeting cards.
  The dipper dip was also frustrating, as my landlady for the week assured me the river in my backyard was normally teeming with dippers, but I saw nothing but mossy rocks. I'm guessing they had moved south after breeding already.
  I visited two sites on the coast known to be home to Sedge Warblers, but at both spots the wind was vicious, keeping the bird action quiet. As I always bravely say when I miss a bird - it gives me something to look forward to next time! I must keep telling myself that.

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