Sunday, 18 April 2010

Keswick - 10th to 17th April 2010 - What More Could You Ask For?

The best week's weather so far this year and we were in the Lake District.  How lucky was that!!

As we had to pack the car and travel over on Saturday morning, we took it easy after we arrived.  We pottered around Keswick, unpacked the car, then did our favourite twilight walk above Castlehead Wood.

On Sunday we walked from the house to Threlkeld, using the old railway line.  A good walk on the flat to get the legs working.  It was warm and sunny.  Everyone we met said the same thing - "It's just like summer - but better!!"

Along the way we saw a pair of Buzzards lazily soaring on the thermals.  We stopped for lunch at The Horse and Farrier in Threlkeld.  A warning here - it's further from the end of the railway at the A66 to the pub than you might think.  We were starving by the time we got there.  A welcome pint of Jennings Snecklifter, then Roast Beef Sunday Lunch brought us round.  Don't take any notice of the reviews that say this pub isn't friendly.  We were sweaty, booted and had big rucksacks, but the youngsters who served us were great.  The beef was really flavoursome and tender, well above the usual pub/carvery standard and the veg were cooked just right.  We'll go back. 

The return journey saw just a flash of a Dipper on the River Greta close to Keswick.  A tick, but too quick for a photo.

As we went under Greta Bridge, entering Keswick, the fells became misty and we were met by this view.

Monday was just as sunny and warm as Sunday, so we walked to the landing stage at Keswick, took the launch to Lodore and walked via Grange and the medium level path to Seatoller.  Here's the landing stage near Keswick's Theatre, with the usual crowd of Mallard, Canada and Greylag Geese.

The trees around Grange were packed with singing birds, none of which wanted to stay still for a photo.  We did get great views of a male Blackcap, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker that announced its presence by loudly drumming just as we walked under its tree.  And the highlight of the walk - I got my Wheatear for 2010.  Everyone else seems to have got one recently and I had to wait, but it was worth it.  Just above Seathwaite.  Not a great photo, but still a thrill.

Tuesday we used the car for the first time and parked across in Dodd Wood Car Park.  We walked across the road into the grounds of Mire House, down to Basenthwaite by the little church and then across the fields to the bay where we had seen the male Osprey fishing last year.  No luck this year, but we did see Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Barnacle Geese, both too far away to photo.  Still, a great place to sit, watch and wait.

Walking back through the Mire House gardens we saw both Song and Mistle Thrushes.

Wednesday was another belter of a day, so we did the circular walk from the house, above Castlehead Wood, via Castlerigg Camp Site and the Stone Circle, onto the railway line and back into Keswick.  Better views of a Dipper this time and a very generous couple showed us the site of a Dippers nest.  Once again, too fast to photo, but a real treat.

Thursday was our one dull day.  So we slept in, read and then took a stroll into Keswick.  After lunch we used the car for the second and last time and parked at Powter Howe Wood.  This is a gem of a place, just above Bassenthwaite.  When the wind is in the right direction, you don't even get road noise.  Saw a Nuthatch almost straight away, which was a year tick.  Shame that we no longer get them in the garden.  No Treecreeper though, unlike last year.  Then under the A66 to the hide on the western side of the lake.

For such a small hide you always meet the most interesting people.  Whilst checking out the Goosander, one guy told us that he'd seen Red-breasted Merganser the previous day on Rydal Water.  Well, my face must have been as green as his scope cover.  RBM are a life tick for me,  Still, at least the Osprey performed.  Great views to the nest on the other side of the lake.  Needed the scope for this shot, but you get the idea.

The hide has a well kept log book, which always mentions Otters.  We've seen glimpses of them before on Bassenthwaite, but dipped in the past two years.

When we got back to the house I checked Twitter and found Nick Frost lamenting the fact that some volcano had spoiled his wife's birthday trip to Rome.  Volcano?  We'd only missed the news item of the year!!  Sky News brought us up to date and we've been glued to updates ever since.  Much more exciting than the Election. 

Friday was our last day and our longest walk yet.  From the house and right round Derwentwater, anticlockwise.  Once again, sun, warmth and blue skies all the way.  Not a drop of rain the whole week, from the wettest place in the country.  Highlights were great views of Lesser Black-backed Gulls

and a real surprise near Lodore.  We had intended to walk to Grange and catch a bus back to Keswick, but we'd made such good progress and the weather was so warm that we decided to cut across the boardwalk at the southern end of the lake and walk back home.  Rebecca chose a spot just before the boardwalk to stop for coffee and we scanned the lake.  Obviously Mallard, a pair of Goldeneye, lots of Tufted.  Hold on, whats that behind the Tufted, in front of the hotel?  Just too far to be sure but they can't be Goosander, can they?  Too much colour on the males.  We waited, they drifted.  Not as close as the Tufted, but still close enough.  Yes, four pairs of Red-breasted Mergansers.  Brilliant!!  Rotten record shots, too far away to show here, but I was made up.

On the way back we got close to some fab Barnacle Geese

and then, just as we were about to leave the lake shore for the final push home, these two hove into view.

Two sightings of Mergansers on the same day, after never seeing them before.  Cracking, cracking day.

We were pretty weary by the end of the walk, but we had tea and packed up ready to leave on Saturday morning.  However, we had to end as we began, so we took one last twilight walk above Castlehead Wood.  Was it the volcanic ash that made the sunset so colourful? I don't really know, but it was a magic end to a perfect week.  Even the bats came out and Tawny Owls kewicked to each other across the woods.  A sliver of silver moon, fresh air in your lungs and the person you love to enjoy it with.  What more could you ask for?

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Sunday At Blacktoft

To start with it looked as though the Easter Weekend would be a bust.  First the washing machine broke down, then the boiler stopped working and finally the weather forecast looked shocking.  So we set our stall out for lazing at home and making the most of it.  Rather like this Goldfinch, which we saw during a bit of back garden birding on Saturday.

Then, miracle of miracles, the new washing machine was delivered first thing on Friday.  Also British Gas was as good as its word and Jeff arrived on Saturday to fix the boiler.  And the sun came out - both metaphorically in the Walton household and physically over the east coast.  So pack the picnic, its off to Blacktoft Sands on Sunday.

Did I say the sun was shining?  Well most of the time.........

The views were worth it though.  Lots of water and plenty of birds.

Managed three more Year Ticks - Reed Bunting, Swallow and Avocet.  The Marsh Harriers were spectacular - at one time we counted ten in the air round Singleton Hide.  Even the Snipe came out into the open.

We were hoping for more waders, but the Black Tailed Godwit were the only ones that would stay still enough to be photo'd.

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Friday, 2 April 2010

First Spring Ramble

For the first of our rambles this year, Rebecca suggested Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal  We hadn't been there for years.  It turned into a cracking day.  As we'd set off late we had lunch at the visitor's centre restaurant.  Unfortunately the venison was sold out, so we had the fishcakes.  Very tasty, with a salad that had beetroot in it.  But not fishcakes, really.  Tasty potato cakes with a hint of fish.

We then did a circular walk from the car park, via the church, through the water gardens and deer park.  Great views of both Red and Fallow.  This was just past the church.

This group was towards the end of the walk.

The new bird sighting for 2010 was Grey Wagtail.  Three were dancing along the river that runs through the valley.  Too quick for pictures unfortunately.  Had to make do with a very confiding Greylag.  What a poser!!