I served my first day as a volunteer at Washington Wildfowl Park yesterday. I was straight in at the deep end (literally in the pond), helping catch 5 Philippine Duck chicks in a net. It felt momentarily cruel taking the week or so old chicks away from their mother and walking off with them in a bucket but they wouldn’t have survived long if we hadn’t.
A Jay was looking at them from the treetops and the local gulls and magpies had already taken other chicks around the reserve this week.
By the time we had taken the Philippine ducklings back to the centre they had started to use teamwork to try and escape the bucket by climbing on each other’s backs.
After spending some time becoming more familiar with the site I went home only to step in the front door and get a call from JM about Quail at West Hartford, yet another crammy first I have failed to find. I was planning to go down to the massive newly planted cereal field near East Cramlington some time during the week to check for Quail.
I was short on time so only stayed at WH for about 15 minutes and in that time the potential 4 birds had gone quiet only to start singing again when I had left, typical.
So this morning I was at WH just after 7 where I met Liver birder and Howden Blogger who had heard no Quail so far.
Although it was colder and more overcast than yesterday Sedge and Grasshopper Warbler were still singing so there was always a chance of the Quail starting.
I decided to walk around the outside of the marshy field (being careful not to trample through the long grass), to the brick building and see I could hear anything from there.
On my way I saw the back of what I thought was a Stoat but as it bounded closer towards me through the tufts of grass I could see that it had a bushy tail.
I thought it was a Fox cub and followed it around the other side of a small grassy hill where I met the amazed Howden Blogger who just got a record shot of the mystery creature as it came around the corner. It was a Red Squirrel!
Now I didn’t see that coming especially in a marsh covered field. I searched again for it but it had gone, I didn’t realise how fast they can move. I presume it was overshoot from either the Arcot or Plessey Woods population.
By the time I had got to the brick building without hearing a Quail I had given up hope until whilst walking from the building to the hedgerow two Quail – Lifer, flew from a tuft of grass I nearly accidentally stood on and landed near the hedgerow.
One of the birds landed in the hedge for a few seconds before dropping to the ground and out of sight.
And in case anybody is wondering I didn’t deliberately flush the birds it was pure luck, I didn’t even know they were there as they were silent anyway. So please no comments about how what a sensitive issue it is I don’t want to get involved in a Quail row like the one, which broke out on birdforum last year.
Talking to the Liver Birder later on he told me that AC had two Quail earlier further down the field.
Also a Cormorant flew over the river Blyth and the Barn Owl that showed briefly was nice to see.
106 – Cormorant