A fairly long walk…

Today I went for a long meandering walk, the sort you play by ear and hopefully end up home at some point (you can probably gather by the fact I’m writing this that I did). I took a bus out to Lodge Moor, with the aim of swinging by Redmires Reservoir and Wyming Brook, with the intention of finding dippers, pied flycatchers and (very optimistically) ring ouzels.

From the bus stop, I decided to take a scenic route to the reservoir, instead of simply walking straight down Redmires Road. After trekking for a fair bit of wandering round farmland (seeing a good few meadow pipits and lapwings), I found myself on the moors overlooking the reservoirs, and heading towards Stanage Edge. The one day my walking boots have a broken lace and I’d worn my old Converse trainers instead, I accidentally found myself in a bog, but luckily the last few days of summer have dried it up enough to just about get through unscathed! The area was home to good numbers of low-flying curlews, more meadow pipits, and skylarks.

No ring ouzels though, but this was more than made up for on the dredged reservoir at Redmires. There were some waders on there, too far to make out down the binoculars but possibly common sandpipers, and I was just lamenting the low wader count when I noticed something land on the banks, which turned out to be a hobby. It stood there for a while, before flying off, looking like a giant swift.

At Wyming Brook I saw the dippers almost straight away by the river, and scanned the trees for pied flycatchers. I was starting to think it’d be an impossible task finding them, and decided I’d sit on the bench ahead and have a swig of water. No sooner had I thought this, but a pied flycatcher landed on the back of the bench, stayed long enough for me to have a good look down binoculars, before flying off again! Ah well, two out of three isn’t so bad.

The way back was quite quiet bird-wise, but a nice walk nonetheless through various footpaths around the Rivelin Valley, snaking my way back to Loxley Road.

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Volunteering

I’m currently nicely sunburnt after volunteering at RSPB Old Moor’s Springwatch event. It was my first time volunteering at an event of this kind (I was supposed to do one in April, but it was the weekend before I moved house), and it was good fun.

I spent the morning signing in visitors, who had brought their kids to pond-dip, hunt for mini-beasts, make wildlife masks, and go on guided walks. Although your hardcore birders whinge at loads of kids arriving at reserves like this, I think it’s great every now and then, and if some of those kids have an interest in wildlife and conservation kindled then it’s a job well done.

I spent a chunk of the afternoon helping to mini-beast hunt, but to be honest my helping was more swiping nets around the grass and asking the guide what my bugs were, thus becoming another big child for him to answer questions for! As well as catching some mean spiders, plant bugs and froghoppers, there were some dragonflies and damselflies around, as well as loads of butterflies. The guy leading the hunt got quite excited when he spotted a large skipper, and even more so when he found a dingy skipper. I really must brush up on insects – it’s National Insect Week very soon, and maybe I’ll have a garden mini-beast hunt to celebrate…

Then I went along on one of the guided walks. The first interesting point was a reed warbler singing its head off in some reeds, very close to the path. Frustratingly you could see branches moving which showed I was inches away from it but never actually caught a glimpse of it. I suspect it was invisible.

Then the walk went on to a wooded part, usually roped off to visitors, where tawny owls are breeding on the site for the first time. The female was roosting in one of the trees, and it was great being able to help point it out to the assembled crowd.

In between I managed a small bit of birding too… common terns are back on the site and I saw a fair few, as well as my first ringed plovers of the year. Apparently a hobby, marsh harrier and some black terns were among recent sightings. Why do I always miss the good stuff?!

So yes, a fun day volunteering. If anyone likes the sound of the events that took place, it’s also happening tomorrow (Sunday 10th).

Auks!

Last Saturday we went for another trip to Bempton Cliffs, to look for puffins. Although not as puffin-tastic as the Farne Islands, which has thousand of pairs, it still has some reasonably good numbers, and it can be fun trying to spot them among the more common guillemots and razorbills. Can you spot the one puffin in the picture on the left?

As well as the auks flittering around, there were loads of nesting kittiwakes, gannets, a few herring gulls, and quite a few fulmars.

Here are a few photos I took down the scope, which have turned out all right, considering I just held the camera up to the lens rather than using the digiscoping adaptor.

First update of June…

I’ve spent May zigzagging the footpaths of the Loxley Valley, like a demented birdwatching ant, as I’ve recounted in the previous posts. I’ve seen some very good stuff over the last couple of weeks, including a tawny owl in broad daylight being mobbed by small passerines, another great view of the little owl, flocks of plump pink bullfinches, hunting kestrels, whitethroats scurring around bushes behind my head… very soon I’ll write a big post about my patch with accompanying maps, photos and various other bits and bobs, at a point when I get the time and internet connection to do so.

The garden is also getting crazily full of birds. The fat cake was nearly all gone, so I replaced it on Friday with one that has juicy insects in it. I’m not sure whether it’s this new ingredient or pure coincidence, but this weekend’s seen the birds arrive in droves. The great tits are now arriving in family groups of up to around five birds, long-tailed tits are regularly arriving (though not on the feeder), a juvenile robin has taken to munching down the fat, and the great spotted woodpecker visited at least 15 times on Sunday alone. Laura also spotted two magpies perched pecking at the fat cake, and as much as I hold no truck with the whole “magpies are evil birds that kill all the small ones” rubbish, I hope they don’t take this up too regularly as it’ll be gone in no time! Other garden spots have included a bullfinch, a grey squirrel, a sparrowhawk overhead, and a wood mouse, sadly clamped between the jaws of next door’s cat.

We also have a regular visitor in the shape of a bizarre-looking blue tit with a completely bald face, that we have unkindly named Martin the Mutant. I’m hoping he hasn’t got some kind of mangy disease that will spread to other users the bird feeders.

We went to Bempton Cliffs on Saturday to hunt for puffins, but I’ll tell you about that in full when I’ve sorted the broadband out at home and can accompany it with some dodgily digiscoped photos. Can’t wait? I bet.