• Puffins by Alan Tilmouth
  • Whitethroat by Alan Jack
  • Black Grouse by Chris Barlow

Alnwick Moors – 20th January 2018

A still, sunny but very cold day with snow covering all the hills and fields greeted my arrival at the moorland west of Alnwick. A Raven was the first bird seen, as it glided by, calling. A pair of Crossbills also called in flight and rather surprisingly at this altitude, eight Meadow Pipits fed in snow free areas where cattle had been at a trough. The vast majority of the upland population of these Pipits head in autumn for warmer climes in central/southern Spain, but small numbers do remain in the county in mild winters, where most make for the coast.

Another hardy bird was a female Stonechat, pouncing onto snow free patches to find scarce insects, from a sunny, south facing wall perch at the Brizlee Wood radar station. Here another Raven arrived and landed, calling on a wall. The walls were popular too with many of the Red Grouse here, seeming to prefer not to stand in the snow below. At least 25 were seen in the area. Their constant calls could be heard.

Even with the temperature gauge showing a meagre 2 degrees, the brilliant sun and clear blue skies tempted 5 Common Buzzards into soaring above the station and a third Raven arrived. The main target I had come to hopefully see, was a Hen Harrier that has been seen in the area recently. After several hours of looking, the ringtail Harrier put in an appearance hunting the fell south east of the station, but was all too brief as it glided out of view. All told, a good day with stunning views of a snow covered landscape, the Cheviots looking amazing!