Its been a while since I had been out birding, so what better excuse than the parents coming down for the day. I had mentioned about Padley Gorge and so they decided they wanted to go and have a look at the site, and it gave me a day off revision, to get out and do some real birding again.
No sooner than did we arrive than did stuff start to appear. It was a rainy day so I had mixed feelings about what would be about, though I should have had no doubts really. The first thing on the menu was a pair of Grey Wagtails in the stream directly in front of us where we had parked the car.
I decided to take them on the shorter route round the moors and then back up through the woods. As soon as we crossed the bridge onto the moors path did we start to find stuff. The first thing was a pair of possible cuckoos in the distance, but I was unable to get a decent enough view due to the distance away that they were. They were flapping too much to be cuckoos for me, but I simply could not be sure, they were too far away.
But the possibility of not confirming cuckoos was quickly forgotten when I spotted a small bird right near to the path. I had a quick look through the bins, and saw a white eye stripe on the face. I could not believe it, a Whinchat, only my second time ever seeing this species. I tried to get some photos but the light was poor and the bird was mobile, but even so I managed a few. To say that I was excited would be putting it mildly. I was able to get some record shots and enjoy watching the bird for about 5 mins before we lost it, but it was very mobile. Either way, that was enough for me, whatever happened it had already been a good day...
But it did get better. As soon as we lost the whinchat we heard a cuckoo calling and not 10 seconds later we spotted it flying out of the far woods and flying towards us. Again the light was poor but I managed to watch and get photos of this one, unlike the one I had seen over the co-op in Hatfield. Even so, due to the light and my poor focusing I was unable to get any exceptional photos, but I still managed a few, and its a cuckoo, a really nice bird to see.
Besides the cuckoo there were good numbers of Meadow Pipits, including some parachuting which was nice too see. And they were not the only pipit doing this, as near where I usually find them there was at least 3 Tree Pipits doing the same. But before we reached those my dad spotted a pair of Stonechats near the tree where they usually are.
As we moved closer to the Tree Pipits one moved down from the top of the tree to eye level with us. Despite the foliage in the way I was still able to pick up some good shots of this position I do not think I have seen one in before. I was also able to get close to the trees with birds in to get photos of them in the top of trees, the best photos I have been able to get of this species so far. I was a little disappointing initially because of the light meaning that I was unable to get photos with detail, but they cleared up nicely in the end. In the same area there were truly incredible numbers of swift over the tree line, at least 50 birds, all flying very low, a lovely sight to see.
So we moved on, the walk already taking longer than I had anticipated, but we eventually reached the section where the pied flycatchers are. I knew the box at the bottom was occupied, but I also found that the box half way up was also occupied, though I was unsure at first, as when we first spotted the birds we were too close to the box already.
When we moved back we got to watch both adults flying to the box and presumably feeding the chicks inside. We were able to get some great views of the birds before deciding to leave them be. Whilst there we also saw Great-Spotted Woodpecker, Treecreeper and Blackcap, all smashing woodland birds.
I had been quite a walk, and now only redstart was needed for a full house. I tried to find the bottom nest box but was unable, which was concerning given that there were birds in it, but it was probably my mistake rather than something else.
Headed to the river and then back up to the moors, but were unable to track down any redstarts, probably due to a school trip passing us on the path. With that in mind I realised we would probably not get redstart today
But I was wrong, as further up I managed to spot a male sitting on a branch, but some way into the woods. As we watched though it came to land on a nest box and started to sit on the box before flying away and disappear. The female then came and did the same, the first time I have seen female redstart, but the view was distant and the light was poor for photos. But it was great to watch them.
It was unfortunate that at the moment I first saw the birds a year tick happened to land on the branch next to us in the form of Spotted Flycatcher, so I had to simultaneously describe where the redstart was for my parents while trying to photograph the spotted fly. The spot fly did not stay long next to us and my photo was really really poor, so I was quickly able to return to describing the redstarts. The was probably the most difficult task all day, but eventually both parents found them and were able to watch them.
With the spot fly I had picked up 2 year-ticks today. On the final bit of the walk we had more joy, with both species of Thrush on the path in front of us, a Grey Wagtail on the path also, and a lone male redstart in the woods. There were also at least 3 Nuthatches in the woods around.
And that was that. It really had immense, a full house of birds that I had wanted to see and show my parents, plus a few more and 2 year-ticks. The weather was not great and so neither were my photos, but I was still pleased with the results, especially of the tree pipit. To follow is the year-list.
Padley Gorge NT: Grey Wagtail, Whinchat, Meadow Pipit, Swallow, Swift, Stonechat, Cuckoo, Tree Pipit, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Woodpigeon, Greater-Spotted Woodpecker, Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Robin, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Blackcap, Wren, Nuthatch, Treecreeper,