Up on the moors

Stonechat This morning I had a walk on the moorland fringe, walking from Bradfield to Cowell Flat, and then back down Agden Side and by Agden Reservoir. I really should spend more time on the nearby moorland, especially at this time of year. Some of the best sounds in nature can be heard on the moors in Spring, providing a wonderful soundtrack to a walk. Red grouse were cackling in the heather, curlews were calling overhead and skylarks could be heard in the distance. Does it get any better than that?

As well as those there were a few linnets and reed buntings around, and at least four displaying meadow pipits. Best of all a pair of stonechats started chattering away, alerting me to the presence of a stoat, which slinked away into the heather at the commotion. Another mammal spot was a large brown hare loping across the hillside near Rocher Head.

By the reservoir a singing male siskin was at the NW corner, with a flock further along chattering away in the treetops, hiding away and making an exact estimation impossible. Three great spotted woodpeckers were around, and a chiffchaff and goldcrest were singing nearby.

A much needed patch update!

A beautiful day today, and a much needed trip to a recently very neglected patch.

Highlights included 7 chiffchaffs on route, 2 dippers together by the river, at least 2 grey wagtails (1 below), a sparrowhawk near the house, 5 tufted duck on Old Wheel Dam, a curlew seen from Stacey Bank and – best of all – 3 tree sparrows on Stacey Lane, the first I’ve seen for a good long while.

Grey Wagtail

The Springlike vibe was jarred slightly by a reminder of winter – 2 redwing on the path near the house – but soon returned with the appearance of a comma butterfly a bit further on.

Comma

A new toy

For my birthday a couple of weeks ago I got a new gadget to play with… a Veho USB Microscope. As well as the obvious applicatons to take close up photos of such fascinating things as lint, beard hair and crumbs (trust me, it’s way more fun than it sounds), it is of course amazing to see tiny minibeasts close up.

I haven’t got round to finding many so far, but here are a couple of shots of a tiny spider I found in my kitchen.

Micro-spider!

Micro-spider!

As you can see, I need some practice at framing my subject! I’ll try and post many more shots as I get them.

(Oh, and there were still 6 waxwings near Malin Bridge tram stop this morning, no signs when I got back at around 5.30pm.)

Lunchtime challenge

This lunch hour I decided to see how many species I could see in 60 minutes, hoping to reach a target of 20.

Things started predictably with a feral pigeon while I was queuing for a sandwich, with a blue tit and woodpigeon nearby. A small flock of goldfinches were outside Firth Court, and a walk through Weston Park brought up starling, great tit, mallard, moorhen, robin, carrion crow, pied wagtail and magpie. Moving on to Crookes Valley Park I quickly got singing wren, blackbird, dunnock, greenfinch and house sparrow, and a coot on the lake.

A walk through Ponderosa led to the welcome sound of a singing male chiffchaff, and some long-tailed tits were moving through the trees. A final look through Crookes Valley turned up a foraging song thrush.

21 species! Goes to show how much stuff’s out there if you keep your eyes open. I’m also very surprised I didn’t manage to find a chaffinch, mistle thrush or collared dove too!

(Oh and the waxwings were at Malin Bridge tram stop again this morning – if anyone still needs to see one it may be worth a look!)

More waxwings… yawn!

I’m sure regular readers are getting bored of posts about waxwings but I got a particular good view this morning – 13 were in one of the trees at Malin Bridge tram stop, seemingly oblivious to the commuters a mere couple of feet below them! I didn’t get to watch them as long as I’d have liked as I was running for the tram, but managed to count them as the tram pulled away. A very nice start to a Monday morning.

Peckertastic!

This morning I had a trip to Beeley Wood, and had a very successful woodpecker-finding trip.

After trudging through the woods for a while, with little more than a few nuthatches for company, I came to a clearing which proved to be woodpecker heaven! A pair of great spotted woodpeckers flew over, quickly followed by another, and the two males proceeded to engage in a drumming battle, giving good views of them hammering away at the tree trunks.

Then a yaffle alerted me to a green woodpecker lurking away at the back of the clearing, and two finch-sized birds chasing one another around gave a brief view and revealed themselves to be the pair of lesser spotted woodpeckers I’d visited the woods to find! All three species in one clearing was a brilliant sight – no photos I’m afraid, everything was a bit too far off and mobile, and I was too busy gawping.

Elsewhere a chiffchaff sang briefly by the river, and three fieldfare flew overhead chuckling away.

More waxwings, mandarins and others

Today started off well, with a singing chiffchaff up the garden, and got even better on my way to the tram stop with a flock of 25 waxwings which were in a tall poplar south of the Loxley, and flew over my head on Loxley Road. Nice!

I spend the day at Ladies’ Spring Wood at Beauchief, where I was on a field trip for my vegetation analysis module. I can’t believe I’ve never been here before – it’s a gorgeous piece of ancient woodland, through which the River Sheaf runs, and is only a short hop from the City Centre. There were many interesting plants to see, as well as woodland birds such as stock dove, nuthatch and great spotted woodpecker, and a pair of grey wagtails on the river.

The best spot of the day was a year-tick I was very much hoping to get today, as I knew this stretch of the Sheaf was one of their local strongholds… just as I hoped two mandarins were on the river by the weir, and flew into the nearby trees when my group approached. It’s very strange indeed to see ducks in trees!

Mandarin

Mandarin

One the way back home I walked back by the Loxley. No waxwings to be seen, but I did get a pair of bullfinches and three redwings, both in the woods opposite the house. A good day all round!

Finally here’s a shot of one of the captive red deer at Beuchief Hall, which was posing nicely while we had our lunch.

Red Deer