Yesterday I went to Ramsley Reservoir and Leash Fen, just over the border in Derbyshire. My main aim was to find the short-eared owls that have been regularly seen over the Fen recently, and also try and find some lesser redpolls (hundreds have been ringed at Ramsley over the last few weeks).
I got there about 1pm, a ridiculously optimistic time for finding the owls, so had a bit of a wander round the area. A hunting kestrel was one of the first birds I saw, followed quickly by a pair of stonechats (photographed below – squint and you’ll see them!). These stonechats proved to be the first of a good few sightings around the area of the now-drained reservoir, and there are at least three individuals present.
At Shillito Wood I found a collection of the usual woodland species, including chaffinch, goldcrest, coal tit, blue tit, great tit and treecreeper, and a redwing feeding with a song thrush in the car park by the wood.
Shillito Wood is strange, because it’s a modern plantation, but hiding within is an ancient waymarking cross, which really takes you by surprise when you stumble across it and looks bizarrely out of place.
Eventually I caught up with some redpolls – my first of the year – a flock of probably around 30 birds overhead near the reservoir, but I still hope to get a better view of some close up soon.
I was planning to get the bus back, and stood for a good while in the vain hope the owls appeared early, but I got quite disheartened by the sight of birders driving up and waiting just before the bus was due. So luckily I managed to persuade my girlfriend Laura to come and pick me up so I could see the owls, with the bribe of a paid-for-by-me curry afterwards – a big thanks to her, as she had to come and find me in the middle of nowhere after crawling through rush hour traffic!
The owls turned up right on cue as they have been reported for the last week or so, the first showing itself about 4.45pm, and good views could be had of them cruising low over Leash Fen looking for voles, and occasionally scrapping with passing carrion crows. Two could be seen for most of the time, but at one point three could be seen in the sky together – a truly brilliant sight.
Short-eared owls are a bird I’ve never seen and always wanted to, so I’m very thankful to have an understanding girlfriend who’ll come to my aid in times of geeky, birdwatching need!