A trip to Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park north of Middlesborough by the scenic route. I drove through some dramatic heather moorland scenery frequently peered at byRed Grouse. The drive took me from Hawnby across Hawnby moor descending into the beautiful oak lined Blow Gill then rising again to cross further moors with the imposing Hambleton Hills to the left. Black Hambleton at 400m is very impressive. Finally the road leaves the high ground at the edge of Slape Stones Beck and descends to Osmotherley .
In Middlesborough I was keen to photograph and sketch a very dapper drake Ring- necked Duck. I found him immediately in the company of other diving ducks- Tufted Ducks, Pochard and a single female Goldeneye. I had great views at times of this North American species. The origin of rare wildfowl in this country is always the subject of debate as specimens occasionally escape form collections, but this Ring- necked Duck has is not ringed and certainly shows all the signs of being a wild bird of North American origin. I sketched in mild conditions as the temperature was 10.5 celsius. The Ring- necked Duck has a very distinctive angular and high head shape and striking bill pattern of white, grey and black. I decided that the eye colour was a slightly deeper yellow than the Tufted ducks it associated with. Close views reveal a beautiful purplish sheen around the drakes neck. With bold markings and interesting head shape the Ring- necked Duck was a delight to draw and paint.
Cowpen Bewley is a new forest managed by Stockton Borough Council where 300000 trees have been planted since 1990. It is a sited on old brickworks, landfill and agricultural land.