So today I decided to wander up to the moors, a lovely walk over some beautiful uplands, with hope of seeing some moorland birds. I set off walking, did not stop at soil hell, and then wandered down to Ogden, where I decided to wander up by the golf course as I have a good record that way with stonechat.
The Reser was very quiet, with a few woodland birds in the trees near the edge of the moors all that was offered, though I did not hang around to thoroughly check it out. The golf course was also pretty quiet, though I got to watch a pair of Grouse stealthily cross the bridleway, which was nice, as well as spotting a Weasel hunting through the long grass. There were also ample Meadow Pipits and Skylarks, as well as a Stunning Male Reed Bunting. Overall it was very good, and were it not for the wing the weather would have been outstanding.
I had a quick look at Cold Edge dams before moving onto the moors, but there was nothing that I could see, only a couple of Lapwings and a Curlew in a neighboring field. Either way it set it up nicely for my final destination, with many moorland birds still potentially on offer.
I arrived and set off down the southern bank. When I arrived, however, I was shocked to read a sign saying that the grounds around the reser were private and that there was no public access. This made things more difficult, so I stuck at the gate a while, wondering if the boaters on the reser at the time would care if I jumped their gate. While I was wondering these things I noticed a large falcon flying across the sky towards me. My instincts told me that it was so large it must be a Peregrine, but I was unwilling to stick my neck out and say that it was for definite. However, back at home after looking at the photos it is pretty clear that it is indeed a Peregrine, and a rather stunning individual too, judging by what I can see of the eye mask. I have a few shots, as it was quite happy to circle above me and the reser.
I decided to go back up and see if the path was closed off at the other side of the reser, and if not I would just walk that way round. On the way walking along the road I was scouting the wall tops to see what was about, and as it happens I finally got a Red-Legged Partridge for the year, resting atop a wall. It ducked off the wall though pretty quick, almost as soon as I had seen it, so I was unable to get any photos, which I was a bit disappointed about. Further wall viewing found me a Wheatear, which I was very pleased to find, my first in Calderdale this year.
I carried on the walk along the road, keeping an eye out for anything. I spotted at least 3 kestrels along the walk, bringing my falcon total for the day up to 2. I was able to get stunning views of some of them too, as they circled and hovered around the road.
Among the kestrels was a slightly smaller falcon. I am no pro, but these bird seemed very much to be like a Merlin. At the time I was unsure, so I tried to grab as many photos as I could, but as yesterday there was an issue with it being mainly a silhouette. I still managed some decent photos, and I also got decent views of the bird as it hung in the wind above me. I was silently convinced that I had found only my second ever merlin, but did not want to send it round or cheer in case I was wrong. After hanging in the air for about 5 mins, the bird dropped down, harassing a definite kestrel which had been resting. I followed the bird until it dropped near a flock of canadas on the bank, but could not find it with the scope. I ate lunch there waiting for it to pop back up, but it did not while I was there waiting.
Back home I had analysed all the photos I have and it seems that I was right. All the photos show heavy barring under the wing and the photo directly below clearly shows a barred tail with no black band at the end. So that would all suggest, added to the fact that it was a smaller bird, that I had indeed found only my second ever merlin, and this time I got better views too, rather than it whizzing past on a beach.
I guess I can start celebrating now...
After waiting for a little while I decided to carry on the walk. The North side was not private, as I had suspected, so only the south side of the path is blocked - standard. Around the pools there were good numbers of birds, including a pair of Redshank, Curlew, Lapwing and a pair of Oystercatcher, along with the Canada Geese. I was well pleased with that.
The western bank offered little, though there were plenty of Canada Geese grazing, as well as a flyby Pied Wagtail. Once I was off I immediately spotted a pair of Sand Martins flying towards me. They flew off over the reser but I was unable to follow them. I then arrived at the point where the gate was. Its ludicrous that only one side of the path round the reser was closed. With this in mind I jumped the gate.
Just over the gate I finally spotted a Stonechat. Its orange breast jumped at me immediately, and I knew I had found one. I tried to get some photos, but it took off as soon as I got the camera ready, which I did not expect as I was not close to the bird. Either way, when I looked at the photo the shape of the beak and the white on the rump told me that I had mis-identified the bird and that it was actually a wheatear. However, touching the photo up at home and it became clear that I had been right all along, and that I had found my first stonechat of the year.
Walking back up to the road I stumbled across my second Hirundine of the day when a swallow flew past me. The day list was looking pretty impressive now though. Its just a pity I was unable to add much on the way back, with only Curlew and Sparrowhawk on the golf course. The sparrowhawk is my 6th raptor of the holiday, which has only been 6 days. It should be the holiday of raptors given this rate.
Ogden was also quiet, the only additions being a pair of Lesser Black-Backed Gulls that had dropped in while I was on the tops.
On the way back I decided to call in at soil hill for a brief visit. There was not much about, but I managed my first Wheatear on soil hill for the year, which I was pretty pleased about.
And that just about covers it all, what was a pretty impressive walk bird-wise and a lovely walk otherwise. To see 3 falcon species is an impressive turnout, especially for me, and I can home filled with doubt, but after the photo analysis I was well pleased with how the day had gone. Follows are the species list for the day.
The Moors: Starling, Carrion Crow, Mallard, Kestrel, Pied Wagtail, Jackdaw, Meadow Pipit, Red Grouse, Redshank, Reed Bunting, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Skylark, Wheatear, Sand Martin, Swallow, Red-Legged Partridge, Peregrine, Merlin, Canada Goose, Lapwing, Stonechat, Graylag Goose,
Ogden/Golf Course: Sparrowhawk, Curlew, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Reed Bunting, Red Grouse, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Robin, Wren, Dunnock, Mallard, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Canada Goose,
Soil Hill: Wheatear, Lapwing, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Mallard,