Etherow Country Park 12.05.15

Overcast, the odd heavy shower, but brighter later

A good number of the Team gathered in the Visitor Centre car park of what is one of the UK’s oldest Country Parks, having been opened in 1968, and which was officially designated a Local Nature Reserve in 2000. Mobbed by ducks, more used to being fed than ‘observed’, and pausing only to admire the model yachts being put through their paces in the coolish breeze, we set off past the Visitor Centre and towards the weir, which in past times had been used to collect and control the water from the River Etherow to power Compstall Mill.

Our photographer in action!
Our photographer in action!

Before we had walked more than a couple of hundred yards, a sudden heavy downpour, which forced us to seek shelter under the broad-leaved trees lining the path and that lasted for about ten minutes, had many of the Team perhaps thinking of cutting short the expedition, but a few hardy souls determinedly pressed ahead and, with mention of possible sightings of wagtails and dippers, the rest fell in behind. And we were not to be disappointed, since not only were Mandarin ducks present in good number, both the gaudy males as well as a few less brightly coloured females, but as we approached the weir (and the sun came out!) we had good sightings of what turned out to be a pair of Grey wagtail and a tantalising glimpse of a Dipper down below on the river. Although at this point we lost sight of the Dipper, it was seen again on the top step of the weir and everyone was able to enjoy a clear view of this often hard-to-spot bird.

Across the weir, we were confronted with a number of ‘Private’ and ‘No entry’ signs and may well have turned back, had not Hilary confidently led us forward (a bit local knowledge is always an advantage) towards an area of the park being actively managed by the Cheshire Wildlife Trust and to a small hide overlooking a large pool on the far side of the River Etherow from the main reserve. Although there was little to see from the hide itself, in the woodland around there was plenty of activity and we had good views of Nuthatch and a Great-Spotted Woodpecker active in the trees overhead.

Retracing our steps to the weir, with brief views of Sand Martin and what seemed to be a single Swallow, we now followed a circuit through Keg Woodland.  Senses were soon assailed by the sight and smell of huge swathes of wild garlic (see below) _MG_0044and bluebells, the latter sometimes beautifully lit up by the sunshine filtering through the trees, and by the tantalising sounds of a variety of woodland birds. Getting views of the birds was difficult, however, with most of the trees at least partially covered in leaf, but patience was rewarded for some (not always the same few) with sightings of Chiff-chaff, Blackcap and Goldcrest. Pausing to get our breath after a steepish climb at a view point, from which Anne reported having watched the migration of Red wing and Fieldfare, we caught sight of a distant Buzzard circling above the hill on the other side of the valley.

With renewed energy we pressed on towards Sunny Corner, the furthest point of our circuit, some catching a glimpse of an Orange Tip butterfly in one of the patches of warm sunshine. Following the path round, we passed a couple of large Owl boxes on the edge of the woodland, without sight unfortunately of any occupant, before descending towards Keg Pool.  Here we saw a Mute Swan on its nest, close to the path, but there was, surprisingly, little else on this fairly large expanse of water. Finally, as we _MG_0041made our way along the path between the Pool and the river, those most alert amongst us were rewarded with the flash of a passing Kingfisher, heading downstream.

Feeling the call of lunch and aware of dark clouds gathering overhead, the team now put a collective best foot forward and headed back towards the Visitor Centre and the car park, but not without enjoying the sight of young Mallard and Moorhen, the latter being assiduously fed by a parent that appeared to catching flies on the water before passing them on to its chick. The threatened shower broke just as most of us had made it back to our cars, well content with a good morning’s birding.

Bird List (MH)

  1. Greylag goose
  2. Mallard
  3. Robin
  4. Mandarin duck
  5. Feral pigeon
  6. Canada goose
  7. Coot
  8. Mute swan
  9. Blue tit
  10. Blackbird
  11. Dunnock
  12. Carrion crow
  13. Goldfinch
  14. Great crested grebe
  15. Moorhen
  16. Grey wagtail
  17. Dipper
  18. Grey heron
  19. Swallow
  20. House martin
  21. Tufted duck
  22. Nuthatch
  23. Wren
  24. Coal tit
  25. Great spotted woodpecker
  26. Chaffinch
  27. Sand martin
  28. Jackdaw
  29. Wood pigeon
  30. Chiff chaff
  31. Buzzard
  32. Blackcap
  33. Goldcrest
  34. Kingfisher
  35. Great tit

[Allium ursinum – known as ramsons, buckrams, wild garlic, broad-leaved garlic, wood garlic, bear leek or bear’s garlic – is a wild relative of chives native to Europe and Asia. The Latin name is due to the brown bear’s taste for the bulbs and its habit of digging up the ground to get at them; they are also a favourite of wild boar. In Europe, where ramsons are popularly harvested from the wild, similarity to poisonous plants regularly leads to cases of poisoning. (Taken from Wikipedia)]

Photos from John and Hilary:

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