A week ago now I was at one of my survey sites in the North Pennines, in the upper Eden Valley in fact, on a glorious sunny day with a light south-southwesterly wind. It is quite a bleak site in it's position in the landscape, and whenever I view it in my mind's eye it always seems cold and overcast. But today was one of those days that proves it can be a beautiful spot when the sun shines!
As I drove along the farm track to the plantation woodland (seven compartments here) I had to move some very stubborn sheep from the track. I was about to say that they had obviously roosted on the track (bird parlance) overnight, but what I do mean is that they had obviously slept on the track overnight. They weren't for moving, not even when sounding my horn or revving the engine; I had to get out and 'encourage' them out of the way.
Driving to where I park my car I had a first record for the site in the form of a female Wheatear. Nothing unusual, but even common species can be patch megas, and that's the beauty of getting to know a site intimately.
Willow Warblers were yet again a feature of the morning, as they have been during all of my surveys recently, and I recorded a respectable 16 birds. Other warbler species included four Blackcaps and a Chiffchaff. I always record a few Song Thrushes at this site and this morning was no exception with four making it in to my notebook. The best of the rest included four Grey Wagtails, 13 Lesser Redpolls (including a juv.), three Meadow Pipits south (my first on vis for the Autumn), 42 Goldfinches, 33 Swallows, two Siskins, a Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk.
On Monday I had another survey not too far from Kendal. Gail accompanied me this time with the promise of a walk on Foulshaw Moss, and breakfast with retail therapy at Low Sizergh Barn Farm Shop & Cafe; I think it was the latter that encouraged her out of bed before first light!
Rowans looking like Christmas trees with a heavy load of berries and a
silvery dew on their leaves
This is one of the few sites where I regularly record Bullfinches, and we had two this morning. Other bits and pieces included a male Sparrowhawk that flew very low over our heads, four (more) Willow Warblers and a Song Thrush; a fairly quiet one.
We then headed to one of our favourite sites, Foulshaw Moss, before a breakfast barm beckoned! We spent about an hour and a half on the Moss dodging the showers that were driving in. In Cumbrian terms Foulshaw Moss is a popular place with visitors and it is a site that Cumbria Willdlife Trust try and sign up members at. I like going there because it is a wonderful place for wildlife and compared to the reserves I'm used to in Lancashire, it is quiet!
There are two feeding stations in operation at Foulshaw Moss and this morning they were busy as always. Numbers of Blue and Great Tits were visiting constantly, as were about 20 Tree Sparrows, 20+ Goldfinches, a few Greenfinches, the odd Reed Bunting and a few Chaffinches. Apologies for the not very accurate or scientific counts, but it really is hard to tell how many birds visit feeders, unless you are catching and ringing them of course.
One of the feeding stations
A Tree Sparrow on a feeder at the other feeding station
A few Chiffies and Willow Warblers hung on, and we had a few Tree Pipits over heading south before the rain showers came in. Probably the best bird of the morning was a juv/female type Marsh Harrier that was putting all the wildfowl up as it quartered the moss.
I've mentioned before the local amenity woodland that I walk to and around to stretch my legs when I am in the office all day, well yesterday I had another mega on one of the ponds in the form of a Cormorant! Again, like the Great Crested Grebe I had recently, not a scarce bird at all, but the first that I have recorded at the site, so a little bit of patch magic!
The weather has been appalling of late, but there is a window of opportunity tomorrow morning for me to get a survey in under the shadow of the mighty Blencathra in the north Lakes, and fingers crossed some ringing on Sunday!