Saturday, 20 June 2009

Redstarts at Black Middens

Without any particular plan, I ventured today into the remote and beautiful country surrounding the Tarset Burn and the ruined bastle house at Black Middens. The Tarset Burn is a tributary of the North Tyne and because there is only a single-track road into and out of the valley, people seem to pass it by.

In the woodland at Black Middens I watched a pair of Redstarts feeding at least four young. These were the best views I have had of Redstarts in many years. There was also a very active family of Treecreepers in the wood, which added to the pleasure.

A short way down the road, a finger post directed me through a gate and across a field to a path through more old woodland on the burn side. I watched a pair of Grey Wagtails on the burn and was eaten alive by midges while standing still for half-an-hour trying to photograph a Wren.

Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)

Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus): the female I think

The Tarset Burn

Grey Wagtail (Montacilla cinerea)

It may be of interest to know that bastle houses are numerous along the border between England and Scotland. They are defensible farmhouses, defensible that is against raids by reivers between the thirteenth and sixteenth century. Bastle houses are characterised by stone walls often a metre thick, a generally vaulted ground floor where livestock was housed for safe keeping and family accommodation on the first floor accessed by a ladder which was pulled up from the inside at night (the ground floor entrance and external staircase shown in the picture below were probably additions after peace came to the Borders in the early seventeenth century). The windows were usually narrow slits and the roof would be made of stone slates. Today, most bastle houses are in complete ruin, some like Black Middens have only their walls standing, others in better repair are still used as store houses on farms and some are converted into comfortable homes.

Black Middens bastle house

13 comments:

PCF said...

One of my favourite places. Did you recall if the Swifts were nesting in the Bastle walls, They have for at least the last three years but sometimes difficult to notice until late in the season.
Congrats on a smashing blog

Roy said...

That was great to get the Redstart pair Emma. I have not seen any for a long time now.

holdingmoments said...

Interesting post Emma; all new to me about bastle houses. Thank you.

Lovely shot of the Redstart. Only ever seen one before, and didn't get a decent picture. Yours are beauties.

Stewart said...

Lovely Redstarts there Emma. I used to ring them at Black Middens in nest boxes some years ago...

info said...

Great to see the photos. There are some walks around this area during the Bastle Weekend in October. More information on the Tarset website.

Midmarsh John said...

The Redstart is a lovely looking bird which I have never seen as yet.

Dixxe said...

I enjoyed seeing the redstarts and reading about them as well as the bastel house! Must be great fun to explore in that area.

EmptyNester said...

Very nice photos! Enjoyed the information as well!

katherine said...

Talk about a post that has everything! I think you might have the most picturesque branches for your birds to land on in the world.
By the way I have a FZ28 too and I must say you are a master with it. I bought a clip on macro lens for it and was blown away by the extreme macros I was getting. Summer of 2009?!! My, you have been doing this for a long time and are a great insparation! ;-)WBW

holdingmoments said...

Beautiful shots of the Redstart Emma.
Never seen one before. The male is a real beauty.

theconstantwalker said...

The Redstart is a lovely bird and your images are brilliant. Thanks for sharing.

Larry said...

What beautiful countryside Emma. You have some nice shots of the Redstarts there and that bastle house is amazing!

Gary said...

What an informative post with a good selection of birds. Boom & Gary of The Vermilon River, Canada.