Friday, 25 April 2014

Padley Gorge NT

Today the weather took a turn for the worse, as I woke up to fog and drizzle, and a forecast saying it was going to get worse. However I persevered and went into the peaks to a NT site named Padley Gorge, a valley of ancient woodland very similar to Hardcastle Craggs. The site is well known for its pied flycatchers and redstarts.
By the time I arrived it looked clearer and the rain had stopped. I set off through the wood constantly keeping an eye open for anything, as 8 pied flycatchers had been seen the day before. However I passed through the woodland on the eastern side of the river without seeing one, though I did get good views of jay feeding and of Nuthatch.
Things started to pick up when I arrived on the moorland at the end of the gorge. There were meant to be a few tree pipit around, but I initially failed to track one down. However the bird I tracked down instead was far more pleasing on the eye, as I found this stunning male stonechat singing from the moorland. I was unable to get very close but from a distance he was very bold, sat out in the open singing.
There were a few Meadow Pipits around, so my quest for a tree pipit was hindered by that, and that there was obviously not one singing nearby. However I did hear my first cuckoo of the year, just one call from a distant part of the valley, but it was still my first call.
I then spotted another pipit in flight, and this one landed in a tree. I failed to get a photo as it was difficult to locate. Obviously meadow pipits can land in trees if they want, though the usually don't, but this bird then moved trees. So that was my first year tick of the day; Tree Pipit, though the view was not great it was pretty clear as to its identity.
Just down from there the path re-entered the woodland via a slope with sheer rocks on one side and a drop on the other. Even as I entered I knew this was probably the best spot as there were clear nest boxes. However the first bird I saw in this area was a lovely Great Spotted Woodpecker, that was pulling moss of the branches.
-Greater Spotted Woodpecker
As I watched the woodpecker I spotted a small white bird alight on a branch a way down the path. When you see it you know, so even before I raised my bins I knew I would see a stunning male Pied Flycatcher. And it was, though the view was distant it was still a stunning bird, and only my second ever.
I moved closer but he was very mobile and was feeding in the mid level of the trees, and because the path was going down from the slope I realised I would soon end up looking up to the bird, not ideal.
-Pied Flycatcher
After a bit he moved off into the forest and I lost him. I decided to stick around this area, and it is a good job I did because soon after I lost the pied flycatcher I noticed a dash of red whizz past me and land on a branch pretty close in all fairness.
Yes, it was indeed a stunning Male Redstart, unbelievable, I could not believe it. There had only been a few records so far this year so to get a view like I had was unbelievable. I even got to see the lovely tail twizzle that makes these birds so charming. 
Sadly the view was brief, as it only landed on about 3 branches, spending about 10 seconds on each. I grabbed some photos but now that I am home I have realised the light was badly against me so none of them are particularly good. All I can say is that it was a truly stunning bird and no photo would ever have done it justice anyway.
-Male Redstart
After that, and a little wait longer I decided to walk around this side a bit more, try and track down some more pairs. I failed to do this so ended up back where I knew was a safe bet to find them. I continued to spot them hunting in the trees, but they were very mobile and quite high up, so getting a decent picture was difficult. I made a fist of it, but like the redstart they will never do the birds justice.
-Female Pied Flycatcher
-Male Pied Flycatcher
By around half 12 the weather really began to set in, but since I had finished the walk it did not really matter and so decided to call it quits. I would highly recommend the site to anyone, not only are its birds stunning, but the site itself is very beautiful. Here to follow is today's species list, woo!

Species List:
Padley Gorge NT: Nuthatch, Great Tit, Jay, Song Thrush, Robin, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Wren, Woodpigeon, Treecreeper, Swallow, Willow Warbler, Meadow Pipit, Carrion Crow, Stonechat, Tree Pipit, Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, Grey Heron, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Magpie, Curlew

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