Saturday, 8 March 2014

Grey with Colour

On Friday morning we drove through heavy rain to rendezvous at North Cave Wetlands. When everyone was assembled we shared cars and set off to our final destination. Although the rain had stopped the grey clouds hung heavy over us, and things didn't look very promising. However, almost immediately we saw a Buzzard over the wooded hills to the north, and then even nearer was a Red Kite. We carried on foot along the tarmac road, but didn't see a great deal until we arrived at the walled garden. The Mistle Thrushes had deserted their usual paddock area, as this had been turned into a brassica crop. In the walled garden in the morning were Greenfinches, Chaffinches, plus Great, Blue and Coal Tits. In the afternoon there was a sheltered section in the eastern corner, which held a Goldcrest, then I spotted a Bullfinch among the emerging blossom, plus a pair of Long-tailed Tits. Other members saw the Bullfinch's mate.
Grey Wagtail
We climbed through the strange gate with a wince from Aileen and carried on. There were more Greenfinches in the garden of the steep-roofed house. We emerged from the hedgerows and saw that the previous Jay and Bullfinch distant habitat had been completely destroyed. We hadn't gone very far when I heard a couple of croaks from a distant Jay along the old railway line, but we didn't manage to see it. Shortly afterwards we reached a lone hawthorn bush. In here was a Marsh Tit, which was near enough for everyone to see clearly. While we were examining this bird there were a few cries from Swans, and looking up a large v-formation of 57 Whooper Swans were heading north. This was the largest flock I've ever seen over the area. 
Marsh Tit
 All 57 Whooper Swans
 Grey Wagtail
Only a short walk and we reached the weir area. Unfortunately, it was at this moment that the drizzle started again. There were Treecreepers and Goldcrests calling, but apart from brief views of a Goldcrest these were very hard to locate. The rain stopped and then we heard and saw a Grey Wagtail. It spent some time on a fence before coming closer, landing on the brick weir, and finally on a stick caught at the edge of the water. Unfortunately, there were no birds in this area in the afternoon apart from some Friday Unmentionables, who quickly moved away when they saw us coming. 
 We started climbing the hill and when we left the trees behind we didn't find the Mistle Thrushes in their field, but there was a Hedgehog wandering aimlessly in between the molehills. Although it is not good news to see a hedgehog in broad daylight at this time of the year, hopefully it found enough worms after the rain to sustain it. Turning round we saw another Red Kite in better light just floating in the sky. We continued climbing until we reached the gate, and here we looked for the Little Owl, but in neither session, despite the sun starting to shine, did we spot it. It may not even be there any more as there was no longer any livestock in the adjacent field. However, there were a pair of frisky Pied Wagtails on the roof of the nearby cottage to attract the attention of participants. 
 Red Kite
We climbed the hill even further and by the big metal gate we surveyed the panoramic view. In the morning the pigeons were festooning many of the trees, but these had all pushed off in the afternoon. Both groups did enjoy views of the bright Red Kite plumage against the dark trees below. The afternoon session climbed further up the hill, but without results of any new birds. Both groups then retraced their steps all the way back to the parking area.  We were passing some luxury holiday cottages when I spotted something moving on the tarmac - it turned out to be a Common Toad.  While I knelt on the road to take the picture below, apparently, it caused some consternation among the passing estate workers!

At lunch time I visited North Cave Wetlands to try & see the Mediterranean Gull. It was present with the Black-headed Gulls, but was facing away from view. It could be differentiated by size, brief views of its darker head, and it's lack of dark primary wing tips. Shortly afterwards a male Marsh Harrier flew through, and this was the highlight of the lunchtime session.

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