Chesters – Day Two

As it happened, I slept extremely well last night, so I missed out on the tawny owl calling from the Chesters bothy roof. The morning was bright, and as I peered out of the cocoon of my sleeping bag I felt the familiar pull of the wild. The combination of hushed soundscape and pine woodland packed with secrets was enough to lure me out of bed.

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As I ate breakfast I had the pleasure of watching a bank vole feeding on the sunflower hearts Heather had left out. He was a challenge to photograph as he only stayed in view for a second, but it was impossible not to love his curious expression as he peered through the window.

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After preparing the bothy for the expeditioneers’ arrival, Cain and I headed back through the Breamish Valley to meet them. Although no red squirrels this time, we came across two dead pheasants. They looked incredibly fresh with no obvious wounds. The only indication of possible death was the presence of downy feathers in the birds’ claws, suggesting the frisky males had fought to the death. It was a great opportunity to photograph a pheasant’s feathers up close – there are so many beautiful colours.

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When we returned, Heather explained the itinerary for the next three days and introduced the expeditioneers to camera traps and Longworth traps, recording equipment used to live trap small mammals. Finally, we all found Chesters bothy on a map of the Cheviots.

Just before the sun began to set, we all headed out into a patch of woodland just beside Chesters, where we used the rest of the daylight foraging for signs of the forest’s inhabitants. There were abundant droppings, and although most belonged to sheep and pheasants, a prominent sprinkling on a mound of grass beside an extensive burrow indicated rabbits. Later, we saw different droppings that were more elongated, suggesting hares were also present. Among other treasures, we found rabbit bones, a red squirrel drey – a nest built of twigs, dry leaves or grass – the chest plate of a woodpigeon and feathers belonging to a buzzard and a long-eared owl.

After a thorough forage we suddenly realised the sun had gone, so we hurriedly set up two camera traps, one in the woods to hopefully capture roe deer and the other beside a clump of frogspawn to see if the parent showed up.

Once the traps were set we returned to the bothy. Heather went to fetch wood for the fire and returned with a sleeping moth. After searching through the moth ID book we discovered it was a herald moth. I’d never seen this species before, and took the opportunity to use my macro lens and accentuate its rich copper-coloured wings. After returning the moth to the woodshed to avoid disturbing it, we had an early night in preparation for our long walk tomorrow in search of elusive adders.

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Species seen/heard:

Bank vole Myodes glareolus Blackbird Turdus merula Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs Coal tit Periparus ater Goosander Mergus merganser Grey wagtail Motacilla cinerea Great-spotted woodpecker Dendrocopos major Herald moth Scoliopteryx libatrix Mistle thrush Turdus viscivorus Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus Pheasant Phasianus colchicus Red-legged partridge Alectoris rufa Robin Erithacus rubecula Snipe Gallinago gallinago Song thrush Turdus philomelos Tawny owl Strix aluco Woodcock Scolopax rusticola Wren Troglodytes troglodytes

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