Planned to meet Ewan at 10 at the pub in Castle Carrock, drove up the back road from Penrith, it was a sunny blue sky, beautiful winters day. We headed off from Ewan's at about half 10, towards Tindale Tarn. The most numerous bird we seen on the moors was Red Grouse, at one point showing quite close, providing brilliant views of this dapper bird. We reached the Forest Head road, a flash of Red could seen in in the hedgerow, we stopped and scanned further along to find a flock of at least 12 Bullfinch. In the village of Forest Head a flock of mixed finches was present, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, and a single female Brambling. At Tindale Tarn, the pair of Smew were present, this was the first time I'd seen a drake bird, well worth the wait. Also about were 2 Wigeon, Canada Geese, Tufted Duck, Coot, a Grey Heron and a strange sight of a Black Swan. The wind was bitterly cold across the Tarn towards the hide so we moved on, heading back to Ewan's, via different route, for lunch.
Reaching the Birch woodland we picked up a mixed flock of Long-Tailed Tit and Goldcrest. Back at Ewan's, he showed me his impressive hide, looking over the valley in a room in his house, with a very comfortable bar stool :P Over lunch we had Roe Deer and Common Buzzard from his window, with tales of Black Grouse, Pied Flycatcher, Short Eared Owl, Barn Owl and Hen Harriers being a regular sighting from this amazing vantage point. Over the entire day I was in awe of the amount of species, the beauty, and remoteness of Ewan's patch and home, only a dream which every wildlife loving city lad has, well my dream anyway :)
After lunch Ewan took me to a site, which he told me, should produce sightings of Long-Eared Owl. Once we reached the area we sat against a dry stone wall, 300 metres further down a couple of Roe Deer fed keeping to themselves, not giving us a glancing look. 5 Common Buzzards moved into the area above us, still hunting as the sky became a deep orange and pink, we discussed if it was possible there was a communal roost in the area, as they seemed to come in as a group. Woodpigeon, a lone Raven and a lone Jay moved into the tree's as the sun set. We moved further along, sitting against the drystone wall again, watching a gap in the tree's a single LEO was spotted, it saw us and quickly moved back into cover, we crouched further down for a while, 4 Snipe and 3 Woodcock flew low overhead. As in became darker the LEO reappeared sitting on the edge for 10-15 minutes before moving back into cover. We took this as a chance to leave and headed back in the darkening skies to Ewan's.
A really good day out, I can't wait to go back again, to have another day with another passionate wildlife enthusiast.