Thursday, 17 May 2012

A Game of Chess

Crossbill - a Queen?
On Thursday we visited somewhere we had never been to before. The arcane rules of this forested site meant we could only move diagonally, but we seemed to manage OK as we negotiated our way through the different patches of habitat.
The am session was accompanied by light drizzle through 90% of its tenure.  This was another bad site for dog mess, but it wasn’t a patch on Allerthorpe Woods.  In the car park, newcomer Chris had already identified a singing Chiffchaff, and this area also held a Mistle Thrush and a Goldcrest.  We hadn’t started long when Maggie identified a Blackcap by song.   On the woodland path which was predominantly coniferous we had only common birds with scolding Blue Tits, and singing Wrens & Robins being the most obvious.  In other words there were plenty of pawns on site.
Then we came to an area which had been cleared 20 or 30 years ago, and this had become very thick Birch scrub.  As we watched a singing Willow Warbler, and a young Coal Tit, a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew silently overhead.  We heard another Chiffchaff here, but we didn’t see a great deal of other birds.  Other birds heard included a singing Blackbird and a very cross, scolding Wren.  A distant Song Thrush was heard singing. 
Garden Warbler - just about!
We made a right diagonal turn and this wide avenue yielded several singing Garden Warblers, but they refused to emerge for very thick birch scrub.  While we were listening to the Garden Warblers and Bullfinch flew behind us out of sight behind yet more birch scrub. A left diagonal turn resulted in some strange sounds, but the only birds seen here were Dunnocks, and nesting Willow Warblers.  There were also Garden Warblers at both sides of the path, and eventually one of these perched in some Oak twigs and sang for several minutes, allowing most people decent views.
Possibly Ichneumon fly Protichneumon pisorius

Later, we stopped to listen to a Mistle Thrush, and after that had flown, we tried to spot a Goldcrest.  While we were looking up a medium-sized flew overhead uttering a really strange sounds – this turned out to be a Jay.  A second one was spotted briefly but we didn’t get really good views.  This was the nicest section of the woodland for flora with some fantastic Early Purple Orchids, plus Bluebells, Bugles, Wood Anenome, Lesser Celadines, Primroses.
On the way back another swiftly-disappearing Jay and a pretty confiding Blackcap were the highlights.  Although we didn’t encounter the number of species we are used to, the participants were impressed with a wooded site they’d never visited before.  
Early Purple Orchid

 Greater Stitchwort
 Yellow Pimpernel
 Wood Anenome
 Bank? Vole [yes, there is something there!]
 Crossbill [left] & a Siskin

There may have been a Jay’s nest just over the road from the car park, as there was a strange series of noises emanating from there.  The afternoon got to a good start when I noticed a slight movement out of the corner of my eye.  A vole/mouse was moving among the leaf litter under some bramble stems.  Then we turned a corner & were walking on when I heard a distinctive chup-chup & there were a few Crossbills at the top of a conifer.  After 5 minutes or so 11 flew off followed by 5 or 6 Siskins.  The remainder of the session was very similar to the morning & even the Orchids, Bugles, Bluebells & Primroses were exactly where we left them in the morning!  A pair of duelling Garden Warblers were a delight to the ears, but only glimpses of them could be discerned in the birch thickets.
 There was no sign of the Crossbills on the return journey, but we found a family of Long-tailed Tits and then Peter tracked down a couple of Treecreepers.  Finally, as we approached the car park we could hear a distant Cuckoo.   Then it came a bit closer, before it finally flew over our heads indulging in a bit of brief gowking as it did so.  We were nearly back at the car park when we saw a Mistle by the side of the road.  These are normally fairly wary birds, but this one made only half-hearted attempts to hide in the trees.  It even allowed its photograph to be taken.  A fitting conclusion to the end of the game.
Mistle Thrush

Coal Tit (c) 2012 Richard Whateley

Willow Warbler (c) 2012 Richard Whateley

Chiffchaff (c) 2012 Richard Whateley

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