Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Wildlife Viewed Through Beer Goggles: 4 North Pennine Upland Ornithology in Spring

I'm still dutifully pursuing my research on wildlife-themed beers so, with today being the day of the vernal equinox, here are three that celebrate spring arriving in the Pennine uplands, starting with the admirable golden plover golden ale. Notice that the bird on the label is legless - is this a subliminal marketing message?

Golden plover have been back on their nesting grounds on Chapel Fell in Weardale for a couple of weeks, where you more often hear their mournful cries rather than see them. A walk on the fell in low cloud at this time of year is a spooky experience, with the birds' calls (listen here) coming at you from all directions out of the mist.  

These are part of a flock feeding in fields near Corbridge about a month ago, at a time when they were just beginning to develop their breeding plumage. They're very cautious birds and I've never had much luck photographing them, so .....

.... most of my pictures tend to be of this sort.

I don't think there is a more evocative sound on moorland than that of curlews during their courtship flights - long, slow glides trailing their bubbling calls (listen to recordings here). They've been back in Weardale for at least a couple of weeks too.

That wonderful sound is made in the bird's throat and in this picture you can see just how large a curlew's throat is when it opens its beak fully - it's really a feathered musical instrument.

And finally, black grouse porter. Strange gurgling calls, aggression, ridiculously plumaged - a description that could refer equally to Friday night beer-fuelled revellers in the Bigg Market in Newcastle and to this magnificent game bird, that I still haven't managed to record in a  decent photo ...... something that I hope to rectify when the lekking season begins again at Langdon Beck in Teesdale

Listen to a selection of sound recordings here.


  1. Phil, That's impressively legible posting after 3 beers. Respect!

  2. All those years of intensive training are finally paying off Graeme...