Finally free from the curse of exams I was free again to throw money away on public transport chasing birds beautiful areas. On today's agenda was Padley Gorge, but birds was not my priority. That today belonged to the green hairstreak butterfly that inhabits the moors and since it was such a lovely day I decided to go out to see if I could find them.
Things started well butterfly-wise, with numerous Small Heath fluttering around, along with a couple of Large White, Small Tortoiseshell and various moths, mainly carpet and micro moths, some looking very lovely.
I wandered around the moors for sometime without luck on the butterfly front. On the bird front I managed to find a pair of Curlew, a lone male Stonechat and plenty of Meadow Pipits. That was the case for some time, all the while cuckoos singing from the plantations in front and from behind.
After a bit, exploring moors I had not been that was before. From this position I heard a call I was not familiar with, but very reminiscent of whitethroat. I found the culprit soon enough though, tracking down a stunning male Whinchat, a true stunner. Sadly it was a long way away, and it was very flighty, so I could not get close, and I struggled to get any really good shots, but it was a delight to see.
It was on my stealth approach of this bird that I got what I had really wanted. Indeed, something green did fly past me, but it was not the butterfly, as finally... FINALLY... after 164 days I managed to see a Green Woodpecker. It flew past me as I lay there, a flash of green. Initially I thought mistle thrush, which are common here, but no, it was the bird that had left the largest blemish on my year-list. I finally managed it. It was only a flyby, but I managed a couple of awful shots. During my wanderings the bird flew past me 3 times, each time giving me a sense of relief and euphoria.
But that was not the end of what was quite a few minuets, as after the woodpecker departed and I continued to approach the increasingly distant whinchat, I heard a peculiar noise and turned around to see a pair of cuckoos in the tree behind having a squabble. Their stay was very brief as they left to continue their squabble elsewhere, and I was a little slow off the mark for photos, hence why the first one is very poor, but it shows all the cuckoo qualities in a blurred sense.
I needed a little while to catch my breath back after these encounters. So I settled under the tree where the cuckoos had been to see if the whinchat would return. It did not but there I noticed a red grouse moving through the heather quite close, but being very skulky and so difficult to photograph.
I waited for some time, but the bird did not return so I headed off towards the woods. On the way I called off at the tree where the Stonechats usually are, and I was not disappointed, with one male and one female bird showing, the male showing very well. As well as the stone chats there was a pair of Willow Warblers, which I think had a nest in the tree, so I decided not to approach too close.
-Female Stonechat and Willow Warbler
Moving down to the forest edge I found one tree pipit singing, but the photos are not included here due to the fact that they add nothing to any previous photos and were not particularly good. As I wandered along the forest edge I spotted a cuckoo that had been resting in the birches. I tried to approach it multiple times but kept loosing it, and then it would fly off while I was still some way off. It sent a Wren absolutely bezerk, and no wonder, because as I was following the Cuckoo I found this lovely wren fledgling in the bracken.
Having tried and failed about 5 times to track it down, I eventually lost the cuckoo and so headed down into the woods for the specialties in there. Box 8 had been occupied last time I was here, but it was not the case this time, the birds clearly having moved on.
But not to worry as box 4 now had a pair of Pied Flycatcher in it, and they gave very good views once I had settled down. Again the light was an issue but I managed a couple of good ones. In this region there was also a male Redstart and a Goldcrest, the latter being a patch tick for me
I decided to cut straight across to the redstart nest, but on the way encountered another nest, this time in a natural crack in a tree. It gave me my first proper views of a female redstart. The light was again too poor for decent photos, but I got a couple and the birds did show nicely, so I can not complain.
I continued up only to find that the box that had been occupied was occupied no longer. I get the impression that the birds must have fledged, as a little further up I found a pair of redstarts mobbing a squirrel, very aggressively, with the male even bombing the squirrel. The squirrel in question seemed completely uncaring, grooming itself on a branch while the birds were going bezerk all around it.
It was in this area that I found a Spot Fly, allowing me to improve on last times appalling photo effort. It did show well but was quite mobile and once again the light was poor. It is odd to observe that I only see these birds here individually, I wonder if they are later breeders than the others.
I returned up to the moors to see if I could track down any butterflies, but did not manage it. I also intended to go back to the whinchat and see if I could get any more photos. When I arrived he was very close to the path, but that was when I was some way down the path, and he did not stay there. I was about 50 meters away when he decided I was too close and he then moved off over the moors and I could not re-locate it.
I decided it was probably an idea to head off for the bus, but quite near to the river at the bus stop I tracked down another male whinchat singing. I had some time and so decided to approach. As I did a squat bird flew up from the shrub by side and landed in the tree next to me. I grabbed some shots, had a quick look and saw a faint red breast, so figured juvenile robin.
However, this bird was not a robin. When I got back and had a proper look I saw a white ring on the face, but it was faint and yet not as faint as I would expect in a juvenile Whinchat, but the white on the wings just visable in the photo below is a big giveaway, that this was indeed a whinchat sat in the tree next to me that I assumed was a robin.
The male whinchat I had been initially tracking was not better behaved than the one I had seen before on the top moors. As a result I could not get close, despite my commando crawling. Needless to say I was unable to get any good photos, but I managed to double my Whinchat count for my life in a few hours, fancy that.
Padley Gorge NT: Whinchat, Meadow Pipit, Curlew, Cuckoo, Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Stonechat, Willow Warbler, Mistle Thrush, Green Woodpecker, Treecreeper, Tree Pipit, Goldcrest, Robin, Blackbird, Carrion Crow, Swallow, Swift, Woodpigeon, Red Grouse, Wren