It’s been one of those days where you feel you don’t really see much, but when you get back you realise you’ve seen plenty… one of the curses of keeping a birding year list is that you end up by this time of year, if you’re not careful, getting annoyed by the lack of new stuff coming your way, feeling like there’s nothing interesting around when in fact you’re seeing as much good stuff as ever. Of course there’s way more to life than keeping geeky lists, plenty to see and enjoy wherever you go, and the minute you stop realising that is when you’re on a slippery slope towards turning birdwatching into trainspotting…
This morning I started off with a trip up to Leash Fen. It was mainly to get a photo to illustrate a forthcoming birding walk I’m doing for Birdwatching magazine, but obviously also to have a look what’s about. It was fairly quiet on the Fen itself, with only a male stonechat standing out, and the usual meadow pipits cheeping away. I walked up towards the bus stop at Owler Bar, through the woodland to the east of Ramsley Moor, with jays, siskins and a great spotted woodpecker in the woods, and a calling common buzzard above.
Near Owler Bar I was surprised to look across the road and see this beautiful pair nonchalantly milling about in the ferns!..
I got back to town about lunchtime and decided to have a quick hop up to Orgreave Lakes, where a yellow-legged gull had recently been reported. That’s the other curse of year lists – squinting through gull flocks! I got there (briefly annoyed looking at Birdguides that a bloody stone curlew had turned up at Beely Moor now I was way over the other side of the city!) and soon found the flock of lesser black-backed gulls that was keeping their yellow-legged cousin company. Scanning through I came across a gull the same size and shape, with a much lighter mantle (but not, I thought at the time, light enough for a herring gull…), fired off a quick photo, and then suddenly they startled at something and the flock took to the air, half of which disappearing off site taking the “yellow-leg” with them.
Zooming in to the photo I really can’t rule out herring, especially as there’s no sign of yellow legs on the bird. From what you can make out on the pixellated monstrosity there is a hint of quite long primary projection, but the bill looks less chunky and the mantle colour not that much darker than the BHGs around it, suggesting herring. And of course, YLG’s legs usually stand out a mile off… The jury’s out, and so no year tick for me then!
It was dull and drab weatherwise, so not a lot of insects around, but it was good to see plenty of gatekeepers around, which weren’t on the wing yet when I was at the site two weeks ago.
A quick scan of Catcliffe Flash aftwards revealed a perched kingfisher, a few pochards, and the usual cast of great crested and little grebes, cormorants, herons and juvenile coots.
And I still felt disappointed by the day’s birding! But writing this blog post has made me realise I’ve had a great day out. OK my list is unchanged. I dipped the yellow-legged gull (a species I saw hundreds of in Italy in May!). I didn’t get to see the stone curlew due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But I got kinfishers, woodpeckers, buzzards, stonechats, cormorants, herons, grebes, pochards, siskins, jays… some of the best birds the country has to offer, plus butterflies and some beautiful red deer! That is a good day by anyone’s standards, and that’s what it’s all about.