Trans-Pennine Trail 17.04.18

Breezy, a few spots of rain

A near record number of the Team gathered in the Henshall Lane car park for the first outing of the Spring/Summer season – not that the weather seemed that way inclined in the least! However, the promise of spring was highlighted by the vigorous notes of a Chiffchaff that determinedly made itself heard over the chatter and obligingly showed itself perched just a few feet above our heads. Indeed, the trees surrounding the car park seemed to be drawing in a fair number of other birds, no doubt seeking refuge from the stiff breeze and before we had even begun our progress along the old railway track towards Broadheath, we had added Long-tailed tit, Great tit, Chaffinch and Woodpigeon to our list.

Making our way along the trail we soon realised that both the breeze and the low light levels meant that spotting birds was going to be something of a challenge, but undaunted we kept scanning the surrounding fields, and caught the odd glimpse of Magpie, Carrion Crow, a couple of Lapwing and even of a single Greater-spotted Woodpecker. In the distance large flocks of Jackdaws and Starlings were seen feeding on the fields and rising up in swirling black clouds, every so often. The lusty song of a Skylark drew eyes upwards, and there high above us the bird was fighting vigorously against the wind as it tried to maintain its position. This was the first of several seen and some members saw some glide gracefully back down to earth and disappear in the long green grass that was no doubt hiding their nests. Further on, the bright colours of a Yellowhammer attracted our attention, the bird perched out in the open and offering clear views of its fine plumage.

Scanning one of the few mature trees standing in the fields along this section of the trail, a male Kestrel was spied, taking refuge from the wind in a hole in the trunk, its feathers ruffling despite its shelter as it peeped out, perhaps as we thought, looking for prey. However, the real object of its attention was revealed shortly after when sharp eyes caught sight of a female Kestrel resting in the fork of a nearby tree and enjoying an early lunch of some prey or other. With little ceremony the male bird swooped down on top of the female, with who knows what intention(!), only, however, to be determinedly rebuffed and forced to retreat to a nearby branch, whilst the female continued her feast.

The copse where School Lane crosses the trail, gave us (and the birds) a bit of shelter from the wind, which had strengthened and by this time was also carrying the odd spot of rain, and we spent some time spotting and trying to identify the numerous birds that were making their presence known through their calls and were flitting back and forth amongst the trees. Blackcap and Willow Warbler were noted and seen by several members of the group, although a Treecreeper proved more elusive and was glimpsed only by a few.

Just before we reached the furthest point of our progress along the trail towards Broadheath, a Brown Hare was spotted running across one of the fields to our left and this animal then settled down, out of the wind, its ears close to its head, and most of us got good views of it. More or less at the same spot some Mallard were spotted waddling along the side of one of the drainage ditches and a Pheasant, several of which had been heard previously, was sighted as it poked up its head briefly from out of the long grass in which it was sheltering.

Taking one last look across the fields before turning back towards the car park, we caught sight of some Stock Doves in the distance and had close views of a Dunnock and some Goldfinch that were pecking about across some puddles along the field’s edge, a reminder of just how wet it has been of late. However, by this time, thoughts of lunch were becoming harder to resist and the group turned back and made speedy progress towards the car park and, for some, the pub, where a convivial lunch was partaken, looking out at the rain that had begun to fall, almost as soon as we had sat down.

Bird List (MHa)

  1. Chiffchaff
  2. Long-tailed tit
  3. Song thrush
  4. Chaffinch
  5. Carrion crow
  6. Blue tit
  7. Great tit
  8. Robin
  9. Blackbird
  10. Magpie
  11. Wood pigeon
  12. Cormorant
  13. Great-spotted woodpecker
  14. Lapwing
  15. Skylark
  16. Yellowhammer
  17. Jay
  18. Starling
  19. Jackdaw
  20. Kestrel
  21. Mistle thrush
  22. Blackcap
  23. Nuthatch
  24. Treecreeper
  25. Mallard
  26. Swallow
  27. Pheasant
  28. Wren
  29. Dunnock
  30. Goldfinch
  31. Stock dove
  32. Willow warbler
  33. Heron
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