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GO WILDwith eric paylor.

TEESSIDE'S top visitor in April by some margin was the spotted crake, which regularly gave good views at RSPB Saltholme.

This small marsh bird is a summer migrant and is one of only around 50 that are seen in England every year.

Saltholme's spotted crake has been busily mooching around the reedbeds near the Watchpoint hide, but also occasionally takes to the air when chased by a grumpy water rail.

The spotted crake is only slightly bigger than a starling and is similar in action to its much bigger cousin the moorhen.

However spotted crakes are brown in colour, with white flecks on their backs and white spots on their breast. They have grey-blue markings on their heads.

This superb picture of our spotted crake was taken by Mark Walpole at Saltholme.

Birders have travelled in from far and wide to get a sight of the bird and so the hide at Saltholme has been hectic at times.

When I went to see the spotted crake I spent some time watching in vain through a dense crowd of heads.

Eventually I went for a walk around the reserve before joining the throng of birders again.

I was just about to leave the hide in frustration when the spotted crake emerged from the reeds. It was well worth the wait and shows yet again what a top birding spot Teesside can be.

While the spotted crake was arguably the highlight, the area's bird population has been boosted considerably by the arrival of our warblers.

Chiffchaffs, willow warblers, blackcaps, grasshopper warblers, sedge warblers and whitethroats are now gobbling up Teesside's insects in some abundance.

The males are singing their heads off both to advertise their territory and seek a partner. Their beautiful refrain brightens up any country walk on a sunny day.

The chiffchaff's song is unmistakeable because it repeatedly chants "chiff chaff".

And if you think you hear an angler's reel whirling away in the middle of the countryside then it is probably the grasshopper warbler's strange but mystical call.

If you do hear a warbler in full voice, try to spot it immediately because once the trees and bushes have fully leafed over these birds will be difficult to spot.

Cleveland birders are currently busily ticking off as many warblers as quickly as possible to add them to their yearly lists of sightings.

If you have noted any interesting sightings in and around Teesside and Cleveland lately, contact Eric on eric.paylor@gmail.com

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The spotted crake

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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:May 1, 2019
Words:419
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