Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Yorkshire Dales Day 4

Its been a while, but I will finally commence the write up of this day, one of the best days of my life. Its only a year late, but still very fresh in my mind.
So after my dad came back from his bike ride yesterday claiming to have seen black grouse this morning I was allowed to be dropped off at the same point and have a go at finding them for myself. I was dropped off on the moorland area past the fields and began my commence of trying to find a black grouse.
First bird I encountered was a lovely red grouse among the heather, looking rather fine.
-Red Grouse
I had hardly gone very far at all when the first major bird of the day showed its face in the form of a stunning male wheatear, my first of the year and looking lovely in full plumage. It seemed weird however to see it, a migrant, in the same area as snow.
For some reason, even though I had only gone about 100 meters, to turn back to the road. Heaven only knows why but on the way back I spotted in the field across the road a redshank feeding on one of the over sized puddles
So for some reason I ended up wandering down this road back towards the farmland. I can't remember why, maybe my parents had text me telling me they had seen a black grouse down that way, I dunno, but either way I did and just as well, for I myself found a black grouse at the far side of a rather large field. The view was poor but there was no denying it.
I decided to risk trespassing and jump the gate to try and get closer, I made it quite close before the bird disappeared behind one of the many mounds in the field. Stealth would be required...
-Black grouse
I even had birds everywhere in this seemingly void environment during my stealth. I had lapwing and starlings overhead, the starlings in good numbers. The lapwing was probably a given in this kind of habitat but it was still nice to catch up.
Like a boss I made my way round until the grouse was back in view. I however found another male in the neighboring field before I caught up with the original and decided to try and approach this one. I did not have much success with this and the bird quickly took flight but I got some more shots that I can use to prove my sighting and to enjoy in my retirement...
-Black Grouse
Rounding the side of the mound unfortunately involved the crossing of some lovely marsh. However, during the process of this I flushed a snipe, which was very nice to see, and they were drumming overhead too I began to notice. Today was the day that just kept giving, snipe drumming is one of my favorite noises.
-Common Snipe
I eventually made it round to where the black grouse was and was able to approach it reasonably well. At least in these shots its far more recognisable as what it is in all its finery.
-Black Grouse
Sadly, as is unusally the case with my clumsy birding style, I got too close and the bird took off and flew back in the direction away from the road. I decided to follow, since the other bird had gone that way too. The neighbouring field was more marsh than the first one, and as a result my feet got quite wet, but it was well worth it. I had snipe going up all over the place.
-Common Snipe
But it was not only common snipe going up. I was doing my best to track them where they landed but more and more kept going up. One bird however struck me as being a bit bigger than the others, and the photo below would suggest that I had flushed a woodcock. It seems to tick all the boxes, which was great, but I would have preferred to I.d it on site so I could enjoy it there and then.
Moorland birds continued to go overhead, like lapwings and curlews, so here is a curlew photo...
But as I have said, I did not manage to I.d the woodcock on site, but there was another snipe species that I did manage to I.d. One bird, seemingly squatter than the rest went up, and on its back were 2 clear gold lines. I was very excited and rattled off some shots of it in the air to see if I could confirm it, the photos did indeed prove that I had found a lovely Jack Snipe, only my second ever
-Jack Snipe
I was probably more excited about this than the Black grouse, even though it was not a lifer. I abandoned the black grouse hunt to follow the snipe as it flushed and settled, in the hope I could find it by my feet as you so often hear stories told. I failed and decided to leave the poor bird in peace, since I had some shots of it. There were other marshland birds around too, such as a pair of graylag geese at the top of the field.
-Graylag geese
I made my way to the final field in this row of three, the final involved jumping some barbed wire fence, but hey, on the far side there were black grouse in good numbers. I was not really prepped for where the birds where, which was on the fringes of the far trees, while I was at the back of the near tree's. As a result the birds all went up before I even knew where they were. Thus follows a selection of shots involving Black Grouse in flight
-Black Grouse
Since I was in this field I decided to wander round to see if any birds had stayed behind, but they had not. There were very few birds in this area, more like what I had expected than what I had got. I then stupidly trod on a patch of snow and went straight through into a bog underneath, leaving me with flooded boots for the rest of the morning. Wonderful!
There were still some birds around, such as this meadow pipit on the fields fence 
-Meadow Pipit
I then had another crisis in that my phone died so I had no way to contact my parents when they returned. With this in mind I decided it would be a good idea to get back to the road so that I could see them when they did return. The return to the road was not as bird filled as the walk away from it, and I had very little around. 
Once at the road I decided to head up the road back to the moors where I had left so suddenly earlier. On the way I passed some of the farmhouses and on the roof of one was perched on oystercatcher looking chilled.
On the moors there were no Black grouse but there were red grouse looking lovely and rather close too, so I took some photos of it next to the path for the record and so I can enjoy the photos when I will not be able to get out and see them.
-Red Grouse
Once more, my visit to the moors was brief and I was soon heading back down the road to see if I could find any more black grouse. On the way I got a smashing day tick with a lovely male reed bunting which was feeding in one of the fields next to the road
-Reed Bunting
I also got great views of lapwings, which were sitting inn the field closest to the road. I was able to enjoy watching them, and then they flew off, but still quite close.
My walk down the road continued to give me species for the day, and just to show the diversity I have included a photo of what is without doubt the most common bird I saw today, a simple mallard, which I flushed from a dyke in one of the fields.
I returned to the field where the Black Grouse had been, but there were no birds outstanding in it. I decided it would still be safe to look round this field without missing my parents so decided to explore again. I got one for the mammals on my exploration with a brown hare which I spotted from some way off but ran away before I got very close
-Brown Hare
I wandered round the field with little else to show for it, however I had a look back into the snipe field and spotted another black grouse peeking out from the sedge's. This bird saw me as soon as I saw it though and dissapeared into the sedges afterwards.
-Black Grouse
I returned to the road after that was the morning was drawing on and I did not want to miss my parents on their return. However, at the road I got the sight of the day... a Black grouse, up a tree. And not a substantial tree either, more like an overgrown bush in all honesty. It was bizarre to see such a big bird on such a weedy tree, and gave me a chance to get some different shots
-Black Grouse
My parents returned after that and so that ended the rather successful black grouse hunt. A very enjoyable morning to say the least. However, it did not stop there as on the way back my dad offered to go round all the back roads on a quest for red legged partridges. Of course I said Please and with that we toured the farms looking for RLP's. And we were successful, with spotting a few pairs on a barren field. I got some nice shots of them, and was very pleased to have seen such charming birds
-Red Legged Partridges
But where we stopped there was more than just partridges as out from the hedge wandered a shellduck, an adult male and not what I had expected to see in this kind of environment. It seemed placid enough and was able to get some decent record shots.
But even that was not the end, as when we got back in prep for going home the birdfeeder that has given so much this holiday gave a little more, as a female reed bunting showed up and began feeding. There was been some unusual birds on this feeder, and this may not top tree sparrow but it was certainly something special and a great end to the holiday.
-Reed Bunting

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