Had a quiet day today with a nice early start to birding at about 1:45 in the afternoon. I had a nice walk from Great Lumley down to Rainton Meadows nature reserve that is managed by Durham Wildlife Trust. The best birds of the day I saw outside of the reserve.
I started of from the font door of the house and it was fantastic to hear the Swallows that are now back in the housing estate. I headed off over the fields and after about 5 minutes from my house my first Whitethroat of the year gave itself away as well as Dunnock and a few Yellowhammers as well as a few Skylark singing. A female Kestrel put in a brief show near the area where a new pond has just recently been discover by a fellow birding friend of mine.
From here I went straight to Rainton Meadows and arrived at about 2:15. I texted Cut’n a Long Story Short to ask him if he knew any good spots for Grasshopper Warbler (it’s his local path you see). I must have just put my phone in my pocket when the very distinctive call burst out in the distance “Drrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr”. Grasshopper Warbler! I headed straight for the area and was soon standing about 100 yards off. It was playing and taunting me for a while as I turned my back walked a few steps and it would start reeling again but as soon as I turned around it would be silent. After about 30 mins I gave up and was sick of his silly mind games he was playing. I did have some cracking views of Willow Warbler and a Jay whilst waiting to see the Gropper.
I headed down into the nature reserve itself and headed for pool 1 in search of a Sedge Warbler but unfortunately no joy. I then headed for the freezer (the hide) and only had 2 Little Grebe, Coot, Canada Goose, Herring Gull, and I think a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls (can’t remember). A nice surprise was 2 Common Sandpiper that were nearly a year tick for me. From here I headed over to Joe’s Pond (he’s never there) but I had cracking views of 2 male Blackcaps as well as a Chiffchaff singing right above me. I saw some cracking birds and I thought it would be best to go back for one last go for the Gropper (Grasshopper Warbler if anyone is confused). I was walking back and bumped into (not literaly) another friend from Durham Bird Club. After a bit talk she departed and I was back on my way to the Gropper site, however I was stopped again by some people asking if I had seen anything and after about a 5 minute talk I headed for the Gropper site.
I arrived at the Gropper site and silence……………nothing at all. Stood right in front of the vegetation it was calling from and nothing. I walked on a little bit and I heard it only very briefly. I approached the vegetation quietly and cautiously and there wasn’t a sound from the Gropper. I had been texting Cut’n a Long Story Short earlier in the day and he said: and I quote “Roll ur tongue on the roof of ur mouth to make a loud drrrrrrrr sound.” I had been practicing around Rainton Meadows when no one was around to try and perfect this so I could try it when I got back to the site. So when I was staind there and no sound from the Gropper I tried the call and waited and then nearly straight away it burst into song. A bird flittered past and landed on the edge of a dense bush “Drrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr” I quickly got my bins up and got a brief 5-10 second view if that of the Grasshopper Warblers head reeling away. Very stupidly I moved to try and get a better view and it ducked down into cover. I moved closer to the bush when it was still reeling and no sign. I then move further back and stood on the edge of the vegetation and all the crunching and snapping of sticks was quite loud and it went silent. I waited for another 15 minutes or so looking into the single bush it was in but it never made another sound. It might have moved without me knowing though.
I backed off to leave the bird in peace and range Steve Evans (Cut’n A Long Story Short) and told him that what he told me to do worked! He burst into laughter down the phone and said “I was only pulling your leg”. I was so happy to have seen the Gropper as it was my first out of the hand (Only ever seen one being ringed before). So it was really funny that even though Steve was pulling my leg it actually worked. Was it a fluke? I think so but I will try that again some time to see if Groppers actually think my terrible impression is one of them.
Year List Updates:
162 – Whitethroat
163 – Blackcap
164 – Grasshopper Warbler