Harbottle, the Crags and Drake stone

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Harbottle Crags Nature Reserve
Harbottle Crags

Harbottle Crags

Half a mile (0.8km) west of the village of Harbottle, on the road to Alwinton, is a forestry commision car park.The habitat here is varied and so,accordingly are the birds.Mixed woodland by the roadside will often have Great-spotted woodpecker drumming in the Spring and other birds to look for include Redstart (right), Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Long-tailed tit and Treecreeper.
The River coquet runs close to the road at this point and holds many of the same riverine species as Upper coquetdale with Dipper, Grey and Pied Wagtail much in evidence, Goosander are common on this stretch of the river and it was here in 1941 that the first breeding record for England was established.Look out for Bullfinch,Redpoll, Marsh and Coal Tit aswell as Siskin.There is also a good chance of Spotted Flycatcher (late May onwards) -dead projecting branches a favourite perching site.
From the car park (listen here for Wood Warbler) a signposted track leads up to Harbottle Hill crowned by the 27ft high Drake Stone or (draag stone), said to be a relic of the druids and formerly used for worship.The stone was also thought to posses healing powers and sick children were passed over it in the belief that a cure was possible.

Harbottle Lough

Harbottle Lough

Set within the beautifully scenic Harbottle moors (SSSI) the Northumberland Wildlife Trust reserve of harbottle Crags is a fine area of Northumbrian moorland heather, sphagnum mosses and bracen with spectacular low scarps of lichen covered fell sandstone protruding from the landscape, sheltering tall stands of heather mixed with a variety of plants such as bilberry, cowberry and crowberry.Remnants of high level woodland exists with plant species such as chickweed wintergreen and climbing covydales.
The acidic, nutrient deficient soils on the higher parts of the reserve support cotton grass whilst the wetter areas are sphagnum covered.Regular burning maintains the typical heather cover for Red Grouse, the moor's only perminent resident, which will readily burrow through snow to search out its normal food of bilberry and other low growing plants.As with Upper Coquetdale, when the snow has melted and new herbage starts to emerge, birds such as skylark return to breed.They can be seen on the lower slopes, with reed bunting, meadow pipit and pheasant.Ring Ouzel prefer the higher ground and can be seen from the track leading to Harbottle Logh (above) which although unspectacular has a record (amongst others) for Grey Phalarope in full summer breeding plumage.

Timing

All Year; Grey Heron, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Buzzard, possible Goshawk,Red Grouse, Pheasant, Long-eared Owl, Tawny Owl, Great spotted and Green Woodpecker, Dipper, Pied and Grey Wagtail, Crossbill, Bullfinch, Siskin, Coal Tit,Redpoll.
Spring-summer; Ring Ouzel, Wheatear, Curlew, Nightjar, Merlin, Goosander, Whinchat, Wood warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Hirrundines.
Late Autumn -Winter; Mixed tit flocks, Hen harrier, Fieldfare, Redwing, Brambling, Record for Great Grey Shrike.
Access;- Harbottle lies 9 miles (14.4 km) west of Rothbury.Take B6341 and turn right on to an unclassified road after Hepple.Park in either roadside car park for Harbottle castle or further along in Forestry car park.
Click here for a location map...

Where to watch Birds in North East EnglandWhere to watch Birds in North East England
The essential guide to finding birds in North-east England.
The 2nd edition of this popular guide to the best birding sites in Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, Durham and Cleveland.
Fully revised and updated, with several important new sites added.
Practical information on habitat, access to reserves, the best times to visit and which species occur in each season.
Maps and line drawings.416 pages. Click here for ordering details...

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