Upper-Teesdale and Langdon Beck Field Trip – 23rd April 2023 – Sheila Addison

After meeting at Rosehill, seven of us set off on a cold but bright and dry morning, pleasantly surprised after yesterdays forecast of cloud and mostly showers. We made our way along the A69, turning off at the junction for Alston.

The run through to Alston was beautiful, fresh green countryside dotted with dancing yellow daffodils and cheery spring blossom. Along the way we saw a few upland breeding birds, mostly lapwing and a few curlew, and oyster catchers, and a number of hares, always good to see. Near Slaggyford we had one lone redshank sitting on a fence post by the wayside, all ready for a photo opportunity, or so we thought, but it had other ideas. Then just a bit further on, one solitary male black grouse, who did eventually stick around to be photographed.

Two further cars joined us at Alston, making a total of eleven people. We carried on to Langdon Beck and turned onto the St. John’s Chapel road, looking for black grouse, and anything else of interest that might be around. We went as far as the bridge over the river in the bottom of the valley where there is space to park, and were lucky enough to see at least 3 black grouse up the valley. There were also pied wagtail and a reed bunting, and a snipe calling but couldn’t see it in the long grass. After a quick cuppa, we headed back to the Hotel area where we parked in a lay-by looking down onto the hotel. We were hoping to see the hoopoe which had been seen the day before, other hopeful people were there too, but alas if it was still around it didn’t show itself.

We carried on and parked near the entrance to the walk to Widdy Bank Farm, and after lunch everyone except me, walked to Widdy Bank in search of ring ouzel. I walked back along the road to the hotel, just to see if that elusive hoopoe might show itself, but no such luck. I did see a grey wagtail and a wren, which were new species for the day. I got talking to an elderly gentleman who also was looking for the hoopoe, he told me he has been visiting that area for over fifty years, and during that time he has witnessed a steady decline in most bird numbers, it’s a sobering thought is it not?

On a lighter note, I returned to the car and waited a short while for my colleagues to return and fill me in on all the things they had seen. Yes, they had good views of both male and female ring ouzel, also seen were wheatear, stonechat, and a redstart, amongst more common species, so they were all happy bunnies!

We carried on up to Cow Green Reservoir, in the hope of maybe seeing golden plover, but again no luck, and the wind was bitingly cold, but still no rain!

Back down into the valley and slowly followed the delightful winding road in the direction of Herdship Farm. There was a large flock of fieldfares near the river on the valley floor, probably upwards of one hundred, and probably the last ones we’ll see until autumn comes round again. We didn’t go all the way along to Herdship, but stopped to see what was around just over the bridge where one little stream meets the river. There was very little to be seen so decided to call it a day. Black clouds were looming and it was getting late in the afternoon. We all concluded it had been a productive and enjoyable day, and, we didn’t get wet!!

A total of 36 species on the day.

Post Script:

This was definitely not planned, but after saying our farewells to the others, we went along the road to find a turning space, and Jill mentioned that she’d never been up to Herdship, so we duly carried on to turn at the farm. Guess what, close to Herdship was a field with a huge flock of golden plover? We tried to ring the others but unfortunately couldn’t get a phone signal, however Clare did take some photos. Sorry folks, it was a complete fluke!!