Goyt Valley 23.05.17

Overcast at first, sunny and warm later

A dozen members of the team gathered at Lamaload Reservoir beneath initially cloudy skies.  A first sweep across the water revealed very little, although the calls of Canada Geese had been heard as we approached the water. However, Swallows were glimpsed skimming low across the reservoir and then gradually a variety of species were noted: Canada Geese and Mallard; a Coot on its nest on the opposite shore; a lone Lapwing and then, just below us, a pair of Little Grebe, noisily making us aware of their presence, and a quieter family of Coot, a male and a female busily looking after two or three little ones. A Cormorant and a Pied Wagtail dropped in as we were about to leave, and, as we made our way back towards the cars, we caught sight of the first raptors of the day, a Buzzard soaring overhead and another slightly smaller bird, probably a Sparrow hawk.

At our next stop, Pym’s Chair, on the top of the ridge above the Goyt Valley, we were greeted by a strong wind and the lusty and exhilarating song of a Skylark, giving its all high above us. The strong wind, blowing through the abundant cotton grass all around us, seemed to be discouraging other birds, and we were about to leave when a large raptor flew overhead and began to hover over the valley behind us, more or less just at eye level. The colouration and habit of the bird led to some debate about what precisely it was.  After much consultation of handbooks, a view began to emerge that it must be a Rough-legged Buzzard. Subsequent consultation with other birding friends confirmed our identification, and it was certainly a spectacle that was enjoyed by all.

A brief stop at the upper Errwood Reservoir car park  added a Kestrel to our tally, but there was little else to see. And although the call of a Willow Warbler was clear and near, the vegetation at the side of the water was too dense to vouchsafe a view.

The Errwood House car park was our lunch stop and, between sandwiches, afforded some of the Team views of a Redstart, Song Thrush and Robin. Our wander up the road past the nest boxes produced some tantalising glimpses of what must have been Flycatchers, but these birds were very elusive and it was difficult to get good views and agree identification. There were clearer sightings of other species; Blue tits and Great tits flitting in and out of the nest boxes along the side of the road; a Great Spotted Woodpecker showing well high above us; a Grey Wagtail obligingly hoping across the road a short distance ahead of us; and a female Blackcap perching in one spot just long enough for more or less everyone to enjoy a fine view. The way back to the car park along the track above the road produced a number of treats and proved that you have to look down as well as up when out on a nature walk! First a small Green Vane Hairstreak butterfly was spotted in the middle of the path in front of us before it flew into the grass nearby, then a small group at the head of the main body of the team almost literally stumbled on a Woodcock that flew off to the left and finally, this time looking skywards, we had fine views of a Tree pipet, nicely silhouetted against the clear blue sky.

The welcome appearance of an ice-cream van on the car park allowed us to cool down from both excitement and exertion before we pressed on to the Derbyshire Bridge car park, from where we had distant views of red deer on the ridge across the valley.  A short ramble up onto the moor afforded us the spectacle of a Curlew seeing off a Raven that it clearly thought was coming much too near its nest somewhere in the heather below. The liquid gurgling of Grouse alerted us to the presence of these birds somewhere near and it wasn’t long before a pair was spotted, their heads erect, perhaps eyeing us cautiously, but without taking any evasive action.

Agreeing on one final stop on our day’s trip, we next made for the disused Danebarrow Quarries in search of Ring Ouzels that had been sighted here on previous visits. For some time there was determined scanning of the grassy areas and scree below us, but beyond the sight of some corvids in the distance,  there seemed to be little avian activity of any kind. Then, almost as we were about to admit defeat, a solitary Ring Ouzel was spotted and this bird obligingly proceeded to hop around in the open allowing all members of the group to enjoy good views. This provided an excellent finale to what had turned out to be one of our best trips to these locations in recent years.

Bird List (MH)

  1. Canada goose
  2. Mallard
  3. Red grouse
  4. Great crested grebe
  5. Little grebe
  6. Cormorant
  7. Grey heron
  8. Sparrowhawk
  9. Rough-legged buzzard
  10. Common buzzard
  11. Kestrel
  12. Coot
  13. Lapwing
  14. Curlew
  15. Woodcock
  16. Great spotted woodpecker
  17. Skylark
  18. Swallow
  19. House martin
  20. Tree pipit
  21. Meadow pipit
  22. Grey wagtail
  23. Pied wagtail
  24. Wren
  25. Dunnock
  26. Robin
  27. Redstart
  28. Blackbird
  29. Ring ouzel
  30. Song thrush
  31. Mistle thrush
  32. Willow warbler
  33. Blackcap
  34. Blue tit
  35. Great tit
  36. Treecreeper
  37. Magpie
  38. Raven
  39. Carrion crow
  40. Chaffinch

Photos JH and DC

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Moore Nature Reserve 16.05.17

Damp and warm, but the rain held off and there was even a little brightness later

Ever the optimists, a good number of the Team made it to the rendezvous despite heavy rain and pretty awful (for many) driving conditions en route. Optimism was rewarded, however, as the rain ceased as if by magic just before 10am, and having spotted a Greater Spotted Woodpecker feeding in the field opposite and seen Swifts wheeling around high above us and a pair of Heron flying majestically past, we set off on our usual route round the Reserve.

Our first stop at Lapwing Hide brought immediate rewards. Almost as soon as we had arrived, we were greeted by the sound and then by the sight of a pair of Little Grebes, one of whom proceeded to catch and devour, not without a little difficulty, a plump perch (as identified subsequently by one of our number whose interests obviously go beyond the purely avian). And while we were still taking in that spectacle, movement amongst the reeds just in front of the hide attracted our attention and we were soon enjoying the sight of one or more Reed Warblers which were singing and flitting about, just two or three metres away, and affording everyone the chance to get a good sighting.

Buoyed up by these early treats, we pressed on through the dripping woods, to the accompaniment of plentiful and varied birdsong, although sightings and identification were difficult. However, there was no mistaking first the yaffle of a Green Woodpecker, and then the joyous sound of a distant Cuckoo, the first this season for me, and I think for many, if not all of the group.

At the Feeding Station hide we had good views of both a male and female Greater Spotted Woodpecker who were taking turns to feed on the peanuts that seemed in plentiful supply, but few other birds were in evidence, apart from a number of Blue tits and a lone Nuthatch that made a brief appearance. Birchwood Pool was unusually quiet. Gulls seem to have abandoned this site – indeed, few were noted on our previous visit this year – and there was little to see, save for a Great Crested Grebe bending back its neck in display to no one in particular (there was no female nearby as far as could be seen) and a female Mallard that was leading her brood of four or five duckings across the water close to the shore. At Birch strip hide, a few of the group caught a fleeting glimpse of a Kingfisher speeding over the water, but the rest had to content themselves with the less dramatic, but nonetheless interesting sight of a Great Crested Grebe resting on its not very substantial nest amongst the saplings and reeds on the edge of the island opposite. Pump House Pool produced no new sightings save for a Shelduck that took flight as we arrived and an unusually solitary Black-headed Gull on the far side of the water.

Conscious now of the time and the threat of one or two black clouds above us, it was decided to head back to the cars, pausing occasionally to try to make out the birds that were still singing and calling loudly from the trees and undergrowth around us. Although largely unsuccessful, these efforts were eventually rewarded by the sight of a Whitethroat that perched briefly on top of a post, before carrying on with its nest-building activities in the thick undergrowth. A Buzzard, high up and far off, eluded most of the group, but easier to see were some Carrion Crow and a group of four or five Mistle Thrushes that dropped into the field and began to feed on the ground, just as we approached the car park.

Bird List (MH)

  1. Canada goose
  2. Shelduck
  3. Mallard
  4. Gadwall
  5. Tufted duck
  6. Pheasant
  7. Great crested grebe
  8. Little grebe
  9. Grey heron
  10. Common buzzard
  11. Moorhen
  12. Coot
  13. Black-headed gull
  14. Lesser black-backed gull
  15. Wood pigeon
  16. Feral pigeon
  17. Swift
  18. Great Spotted woodpecker
  19. Wren
  20. Dunnock
  21. Robin
  22. Blackbird
  23. Song thrush
  24. Mistle thrush
  25. Reed warbler
  26. Whitethroat
  27. Long-tailed tit
  28. Blue tit
  29. Great tit
  30. Nuthatch
  31. Jay
  32. Magpie
  33. Carrion crow
  34. Chaffinch
  35. Kingfisher

Photos  JH, DC and CG

Chat Moss 09.05.17

Dull start but soon bright and sunny with a trifling breeze

Yet more visitors from distant lands i.e. south of the Ship Canal decided that the best way to spend the morning was to be upon the beautiful Greenbelt of Salford but before doing so, as with last Fridays visitors, Team Tuesday had to cross the Glaze before OUR moss lands were happily reached.

I must admit that this spring morn looked equally as lovely on the Cheshire side and in fairness there was a planned lunch to be had at the Raven where the owners had allowed our quite large turnout to park thus on this occasion I give praise to this adjacent landscape but with the caveat that our very own countryside on the edge of town is magnificent (well I would say that wouldn’t I?) …

House Martin, Swallow and Swift reminded us that our Moss is far-far nicer than Africa at this time of the year for this trio of ‘sky-masters’ are now settled over our Moss for the Summer forsaking their ‘Dark Continent’ wintering grounds until autumn cloaks our landscape…..(worry not about our skies becoming empty of life for then Scandinavian Thrushes will occupy the vacuum).

Debrief over in the car-park we set off into a brightening day with Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Chaffinch serenading our way along Moss Lane until we paused at the Glaze to note Tufted Duck and Gadwall ‘Pootering’ about on the water which was running quite low due to the recent extended period of dry weather—it won’t last worry not!

Sand Martin chivvied above the watercourse enjoying their insect feast—all the better to give them energy to excavate their nest holes—let’s hope they choose their nest sites with care for this waterway can become mightily swollen at times (the tide line on adjacent fields full of junk and plastic bottles gives testament to this and sadly to our somewhat litter careless society). Open fields then gave Mistle Thrush and Pied Wagtail whilst a somewhat agitated Sparrowhawk called from behind the trees that line this right of way (foot only) into Little Woolden Moss.

Then ‘A little Bit of Bread and no Cheese’ halted our progress—no we weren’t pausing for elevenses but instead all eyes were concentrating upon a nearby Oak tree for within it sat a Yellowhammer whose song can easily be converted in our minds as a request for a ploughman’s lunch….ah such a bucolic image!

Then came a few Farmsteads which were buzzing with birdlife and here we paused to note both House and Tree Sparrow whilst collared Dove displayed over skies which only a few decades ago didn’t host these birds which only first appeared in the UK in the 1950’s —now there’s a coincidence—so did I…moving swiftly on…

A little bit of practical fieldcraft then followed as I rummaged about in a nearby open barn (owner’s permission granted) emerging with a few bundles of ‘fur’—these actually being Barn Owl Pellets which on splitting apart held amongst the regurgitated fur several bones of small mammals including the jawbone of a shrew … a positive outcome for the Owl … less so for the Shrew!

The open moss land then drew us into its busy life of food production upon which wildlife was happily coexisting allowing our Team to take in:

1 a ‘vast’ un-crowded Skyline;

2 young Lapwing tripping about the Spring-Sown Wheat;

3 a small Copper Butterfly resting upon a Dandelion;

4 a symphony of song from several Skylarks;

5 a Buzzard or two riding hidden thermals.

…….this list of nature sitting so close to our busy conurbations!

…….this list of life which our Team were able to absorb and digest in peace!

…….this list of land which some only wish to place a monetary value upon!

…….this ancient list of heritage landscape belongs to us and future generations!

…….this ……

…. Musings are part of what we are, but there was a fleck or two of brightness to note in a bare field … thus eyes and minds were soon set upon viewing a pair of Yellow Wagtail with one of them (the male) sporting a crown of powder blue which allowed all to reflect upon the fact that one of our UK Yellow Wagtails had had a liaison with a continental blue Headed Yellow Wagtail resulting in a ‘Channel Wagtail’…….phew at this point I positively refused to go into the Brexit debate—rather we moved on to the northern edge of the LWM reserve.

A quiet part of the day I admit, but it was nice to take in views over part of our moss land habitat that is being improved for nature and virtually guaranteed to survive whatever the ‘developers’ have in mind for our treasured landscape.

A move back then followed for lunch called us away from our Moss land jaunt. (DS)

Bird List (BP)

  1. Grey Heron
  2. Mallard
  3. Gadwall
  4. Tufted Duck
  5. Sparrowhawk
  6. Buzzard
  7. Kestrel
  8. Grey Partridge
  9. Pheasant
  10. Lapwing
  11. Black-headed Gull
  12. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  13. Woodpigeon
  14. Collared Dove
  15. Swift
  16. Skylark
  17. Sand Martin
  18. House Martin
  19. Swallow
  20. Meadow Pipit
  21. Yellow Wagtail
  22. Pied Wagtail
  23. Blackbird
  24. Song Thrush
  25. Mistle Thrush
  26. Wren
  27. Robin
  28. Blue Tit
  29. Great Tit
  30. Magpie
  31. Carrion Crow
  32. Starling
  33. House Sparrow
  34. Tree Sparrow
  35. Chaffinch
  36. Goldfinch
  37. Yellowhammer

Photos (including: Predated Curlew’s egg; farm machinery; Yellow Wagtail; Barn Owl pellet;  Shrew’s skull) CG, JH & DC

Rostherne Mere 02.05.17

Warm sunshine for most of the morning.

 Judicious parking in the small car park at Rostherne allowed 14 members of Team Tuesday to gather before the church bell rang at 10 o’clock. Rostherne Mere is one of Natural England’s National Nature Reserves supported by local volunteers and we were soon introduced to one of them, Steve, who was there to do some survey work on the reserve’s bird life.
Walking through the village, a buzzard flew low overhead and a robin stood on the outfield of the cricket pitch, while over the wall of the low lying church jackdaws and swallows looked for food. From the Observatory, mute swans lazily groomed themselves, two jays flew past, a great-crested grebe swam slowly back and forth and a cormorant or two took off from their nests. Reluctant to leave this peaceful scene, Team Tuesday were soon swept up in the views across the Mere and in the deep dense colour of the bluebells as the path led down through the woods to the field adjoining the reed beds but not before meeting up with Steve again who had seen a tawny owl nearby. With the help of Sheila another dedicated bird surveyor and despite concentrated searching it was thought the owl must have flown and attention turned to the reed and sedge warblers that provided a continual backdrop of sound to our walk.

Taking to the duckboard, birds were hard to spot but we were lucky to meet Malcolm a bird ringer who showed us a reed warbler just caught in the mist net, a bird that IMG_3058Malcolm had previously ringed and he told us that this tiny creature weighing less than 1/2 ounce had been to West Africa and back at least 4 times. Walking round to the woods the church tower was easily seen across the Mere so too was a greater-spotted woodpecker nearer to hand. The woods were full of wild flowers, ramson, early purple flowering orchids, wood anemone, pink campion, wood sorrel among them and a reed warbler finally showed itself above the reeds. Retracing our steps a chiffchaff and a blackcap sang while snatches of a whitethroat were heard.

What a satisfying morning it had been thanks to John and his Rostherne colleagues.(HP)
Bird List (MH)
  1. Mute swan
  2. Canada goose
  3. Mallard
  4. Tufted duck
  5. Pheasant
  6. Great-crested grebe
  7. Cormorant
  8. Grey heron
  9. Common buzzard
  10. Coot
  11. Black-headed gull
  12. Lesser black-backed gull
  13. Woodpigeon
  14. Great spotted woodpecker
  15. Swallow
  16. Wren
  17. Dunnock
  18. Robin
  19. Blackbird
  20. Mistle thrush
  21. Reed warbler
  22. Chiffchaff
  23. Long-tailed tit
  24. Blue tit
  25. Great tit
  26. Nuthatch
  27. Starling
  28. Jay
  29. Magpie
  30. Jackdaw
  31. Carrion crow
  32. House sparrow
  33. Goldfinch
  34. Reed bunting
  35. Blackcap – heard only
  36. Sedge warbler – heard only

Plus a few butterflies: large white, green veined white, orange tip, peacock, comma, speckled-wood; and a host of flowers including bluebells and an early purple orchid.

Photos CG & DC