Monday, 14 November 2011

End of an Era

Yesterday was the final Robert Fuller event to tie in with his winter exhibition. Things didn't augur well for the Winter Migrant Walk. It was quite gloomy at home and the mist thickened as I reached the higher altitudes around Thixendale. By the time the session started the visibility was very poor and it was drizzling. We started in Millington Wood, and at first there was very little evidence of any birds. So, I pointed out Birch Polypore & Ear Fungus on the way. Everyone had the opportunity of handling the latter, as I related some of the folklore associated with this species.

When we reached the pool we were greeted with the pig-like squeal of the Water Rail. Then someone spotted it creeping round the edge of the pond towards us. At that moment my watch alarm rang out & we observed the 2 minute silence. The Water Rail hadn't finished with us, because after we remembered the fallen it flew weakly past the group, dangling its legs behind it. It then called from an area of thick vegetation, whilst another called from the area it had just left. The Water Rail was a 'lifer' for all participants.

Other birds around the pool were Little Grebes, Moorhens, but the second best was a Grey Wagtail, which we saw better once we had walked along the road a short way. Also near here we were just able to discern several Bullfinches through the mist. Redwings & Fieldfare continued to fly up from the hawthorn bushes but we didn't get a perfect view of any of these. Much more obliging was a single Treecreeper and a Coal Tit. On the return journey we did get slightly better sightings of a Fieldfare and a few Redwings.

The day before was the final Red Kite Roost event of the season. Early on in the vigil I spotted a Red Kite perched in a tree. This was tagged & we were able to see it was Red No.7. It left its perch & flew down to the ground where it snatched some food from a Carrion Crow & then carried it to a nearby tree being chased & mobbed by the aggrieved Crow. In all we probably saw about 12 Red Kites making their way to the roost, but many of these were little more than silhouettes - it was Number 7, which gave us the best views. Other birds seen here included: Kestrel, Mallard, Redwings & Fieldfares. We also heard the first ever Little Owl barking in this area.

On Friday the forecast was too bad for the planned Barn Owl trip, so we switched to Tuesday's location. The Friday am group were as charmed with the new location as the Tuesday groups had been. Unfortunately, we couldn't find the Lesser Yellowlegs, but the group seemed quite satisfied with the great views of swirling Golden Plovers, plus Black-tailed Godwits, Dunlin, Shoveler, Little Egrets, Curlew, Redshank & Teal. We also had time to walk to a further hide on the eastern edge of the reserve. We didn't see a great many more birds, but a Roe Deer broke cover close to us, and when we returned a Jay was peering into my back window!

The afternoon group went to a different location. It was extremely grey, but we were able to see several Short-eared Owls. one flew right over our heads, and a little later I found one perched on the ground. This stayed ion place for several minutes, and this was enough time for everyone to observe it through a telescope - it was a 'lifer' for some participants.

Water Rail (taken at Spurn)
Record shot of Red Kite (Number 7)
Record shot of Red Kite & the aggrieved Carrion Crow
Record shot clearly showing No.7
Short-eared Owl
Roe Deer
Jay after looking through my back window


Anonymous said...

The pond near Millington wood is a great little birding gem in the Wolds isn't it. Water Rail are regular every winter, and the hawthorn scrub always contains plenty of interest (like the Hawfinch which was there for a few weeks in 2009).

Have you ever tried visiting the ADAS farm at High Mowthorpe, as the small reservoir there can attract winter wildfowl? Numbers can vary from year to year, but nevertheless as open water is rare on the Wolds it can attract some unexpected birds sometimes.

Michael Flowers said...

The pool is also great in summer, with 2 Redstarts holding territory in 2009 & a Tree Pipit only a few yards away - I think the wolds in general are an under-watched area by birders.

I've never heard of the farm at High Mowthorpe, so will have to investigate - thanks for the tip

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more about the Wolds, though I think more and more people are starting to discover the area, thanks to yourself and the likes of Robert Fuller.

I did manage to catch up with the Millingtondale Redstart's a couple of times this year, though I don't know if they bred or not.