Sunday saw the final 2 events running in conjunction with Roberts Fuller’s Summer Exhibition. The morning walk took place near an Ancient Monument. All but one person turned up at the Gallery in good time, we waited for the 1 late comer, but she failed to show. We therefore wasted 15 minutes before setting off. On the way to the final venue we saw a Kestrel perched over the road, a really bright Yellowhammer, and a few scattered Swallows, but we didn’t come close to killing nearly as many Red-legged Partridges as last week. There was a lot more room in the car park this time, and again Yellowhammers could be heard in the distance, but today other birds to be heard here including a Song Thrush, a Blackcap and a Blackbird. On the walk down the valley a Yellowhammer was perched on the left hand side of a telegraph post, whilst a pair of Linnets disappeared into the bare field on its right, and then landed briefly on the hedgerow underneath the Yellowhammer. A Common Whitethroat perched very briefly on a tiny hawthorn bush, whilst a Blackcap sang nearby. There were more Willow Warblers singing than last week, but our previous visit had been in an afternoon.
Redstart (at the same location 3 years ago)
We went through a couple of gates and were almost immediately rewarded with views of a male Redstart constantly feeding its young brood in a very distinctive nest-hole. He was definitely more obvious than the female this time. A Great Tit was also busy just outside the nest hole, so it may also have been nesting nearby. As we watched the Redstart there was a sneeze near at hand, and a Marsh Tit flew into the trees behind us. Unfortunately, it didn’t hang around for a decent view. The only other bird in this area was a Goldfinch which landed on the wires above our head. We were just about to walk back through the gate when the Wakefield lady spotted the male Redstart sitting the nearest it had been to us all morning. When we had returned to the site of the old railway line one chap had to retire to his car with an aching hip.
Record shot of a Yellowhammer
Here, a Chiffchaff sang briefly & distantly, but not long enough for me to point it out to the group. Those near the front saw a female Blackcap collecting insects, but the male was harder to see, though he was singing strongly. An Orange-tip passed us a few times round here, and one participant spotted a Comma. It was near here that we encountered a family of Long-tailed Tits, but we could only snatch decent views of the adults. A Bullfinch flew into the hedge, allowing us only to catch a view of a white rump, but its plaintive ‘pue’ call was heard by all. Another Marsh Tit sneezed as it flew along the thick hedgerow, but it remained a blur, and failed to perch in the open. The lady from Wakefield spotted a Hare on the hillside, which ran past a Magpie before disappearing over the brow of the hill. In a bush on the hilltop a lovely red-breasted Linnet was drying itself after having a bath.
Record shot of an Orange-Tip in Flight
We came to some redundant buildings and this is where at least 4 of the party disappeared for several minutes as they reminisced about their previous uses. Meanwhile we heard our first & only Garden Warbler, of which we managed to obtain glimpses as he sang among some fresh Ash leaves. A Curlew sang out, so presumably they breed on the hillsides in this area. We also heard our first proper Chiffchaff of the day, and nearly everyone saw it flitting high among the Ash leaves. We returned the way we had come, and didn’t add any new species, but we climbed the hill with alacrity, as the dark clouds seemed to be massing for an attack, but we managed to reach the car park with only a few drops trying to soak us. There was chaos in the car park as several people were trying to park with no available spaces. One of our party almost had his car pranged, but eventually he was allowed to reverse from his space, so one of the newcomers could take his place.
The afternoon session saw a similar situation arise, but this time we were the newcomers. The car park at the new location was already brimming over, and our arrival came at a difficult time. In the end a few of us managed to squeeze into the car park, whilst at least 3 had to abandon their cars outside the usual parking area. We walked down the hill, and I could hear a distant Whitethroat, but we never actually caught up with this particular bird. A pair of Red-legged Partridge heads could just be spotted in some long grass – the male poking his head up that bit higher than the browsing female. We were much luckier with a Willow Warbler which came to suss us out, and everyone managed to get decent views, and one lady even managed to take a photo. A large bird flying distantly looked reminiscent of a raptor, but on closer investigation proved to be only a Lesser Black-backed Gull. We were luckier when someone spotted a Buzzard soaring over an area of conifers. It then began to hover clumsily before it disappeared over a large deciduous woodland.
Singing Willow Warbler
Despite the best efforts of the Sunday afternoon traffic we eventually made it to the pond, and this was the most prolific area for the numbers of species seen well. A pair of Whitethroats were active around the metal gate and could be seen collecting insects around the umbels of the Cow Parsley. A Yellowhammer was heard singing, and this was eventually seen clearly. A Treecreeper was singing nearby, and then one lady spotted it clinging to the side of a mature Ash tree. There was another Marsh Tit in this area, but again it didn’t stay long enough for everyone to get decent views. We went a bit further, where the lady with the camera toppled over, but luckily the camera (& the lady) were apparently undamaged. We walked to where there had been a Tree Pipit a few years ago, but the bushes had been burnt in this area, and there was no sign of this locally scarce species. However, we went a little further and were lucky enough to encounter a Meadow Pipit indulging in its ever-popular parachuting song-flight. The Meadow Pipit plunged down to our side of the hill & into a gorse bush, but it was soon seen off by another male. It was at this point that we heard the best song of a Skylark of the day.
We returned to the pond area, but this had been taken over by paddlers, so apart from a Moorhen there were no new sightings there. We walked a little further along the road, but the only decent sighting was of a Willow Warbler plucking flies from a barbed wire fence. On the return journey to the car park I pointed out some ear fungus & was able to regale the group with some of the folklore and culinary qualities of this unique fungi. We were able to return to the cars without further incident.