Last Sunday (2nd March) I took an early morning trip to the Rising Sun Country Park which is situated right at the heart of North Tyneside. The park is owned and managed by the local council and despite being situated behind a supermarket, offers a wide variety of wildlife habitats across a fairly small area, including plantation woodland, grassland, wetland and a lake. As with a lot of the great habitats for wildlife across the north east, the Rising Sun was created on an old mining site and the lake and wetland area is now designated as a Local Nature Reserve.
The weather last weekend was distinctly wintry compared to the weekend just gone but the morning was bright and clear. I headed straight down toward the Swallow Pond (as the lake is known) to have a look at the bird life through the hide at the bottom end of the water. The lake is quieter now than it was in the depths of winter but there were still plenty of Mallard, Teal and Tufted Duck on the water, along with Mute Swans and Canada Geese and the usual complement of Herring and Black Headed Gulls. Around the margins of the lake there were Coot and Moorhen foraging in amongst the reeds. And within just a matter of minutes I was thrilled to discover a pair of Water Rail right beside the hide, giving great views. Back in December I had caught sight of the rear end of a Water Rail disappearing into the reeds and was really disappointed, having realised it had been right under my nose all along. So this sighting of the elusive species more than compensated!
After the Swallow Pond I made my way along the track with Blue Tit, Great Tit, Greenfinch and Chaffinch in the hedge rows either side. There were plenty of Robins and Blackbirds foraging amongst the leaves alongside the path ahead of me and I also heard and saw Goldfinch over head. I once read the song of Goldfinch described as being like the sound of ‘tinkling bells’ and if you listen hard enough I think you will agree – it is a lovely sound.
Towards the top of the Park (the eastern edge) is another smaller body of water – Duke’s Pond – surrounded by reeds and tussocky grass and I made my way there next. In the pond were just a few Mallard and Tufted Duck, along with Coot and Moorhen but a bird in the nearby hedgerow caught my eye. On closer inspection it turned out to be a Corn Bunting, a farmland bird that is scarce these days, so in the space of half an hour I was thrilled twice! I walked round the pond and spotted a Lapwing in display flight just outside the Park boundary. Its fast swooping, diving and barrel-rolling was breathtaking. I was also treated to the melodious sound of a Song Thrush in full song and eventually located the bird perched in a hedgerow, again on the fringe of the Park boundary.
After a while I retraced my steps and resumed my circular walk, but not before disturbing a Wren which had been minding its business in the long grass. Towards the visitor centre at least two Mistle Thrush foraged on the edge of the car park before flying into the trees and on to a telegraph wire. Whilst following the Thrush which flew up to the wire I spotted two handsome Stock Doves which were also perched further along the wire, enjoying the morning sunshine. These were the first I have seen in a long time, although they can be easily overlooked in a large flock of Wood Pigeon.
Past the visitor centre I descended down into the plantation woodland; a mixture of Lodgepole Pine, Silver Birch, Whitebeam and Poplar. On the way down I spied a bird being mobbed by a Crow above the trees, some way off. Instinctively I thought ‘bird of prey’ and indeed it was – my first Sparrowhawk of the year. Both the Crow and the Sparrowhawk were soon out of view so I headed into the woods. The high-pitched calls of Coal Tits and Goldcrests could soon be heard and it wasn’t long before I had located these small birds, flitting from branch to branch in the Pine trees. As the Coal Tits and Goldcrests departed, I caught sight of two new birds – a pair of Treecreepers. One soon disappeared but the other remained on a Silver Birch, climbing the tree from its base whilst scouring the bark for tiny insects. This bird looked really smart, with its white breast and underparts in nice contrast to its streaked brown head, body and wings.
Once the Treecreeper was out of sight I lingered a while longer before making off for home but I will certainly be visiting again over the rest of the year. One area of the Park that will come into its own over the coming months is the wild flower meadow which has been created in an area of the plantation woodland cleared by fire. This area boast orchids amongst other species and attracts butterflies and other insects during summer. The woodland areas also play host to an interesting variety of fungi and mosses which thrive in the damp conditions, particularly in autumn, which will be great to investigate.