Its taken some time to make it, but today I finally made it to Old Moor for the barn owl. I set off with the intention of spending all day there, staying until the owls showed. Upon arrival I was informed that the day before they had even been seen during the day, with the chicks sat on the edge of the box. This then seemed a pretty bulletproof tick. I may as well tell you now that the owls were not seen all day, and it seems likely that they fledged during the night, one day too late. I guess that's what I get for not going sooner.
Not knowing this I made my way straight over to the Wader Scrape Hide, no messing about, to see if they were there. I wandered in to quite crowd, but there were no owls on the box. In fairness it was the height of the day, already 12.00 and a clear, very warm day. With that in mind I settled down to await upon the owls arrival. I spent a lot of time watching the box to see if any chicks would pop out, but none did.
The scrape was much busier than it had been last time I was here. There were, of course, masses of Black-Headed Gulls, with the occasional Lapwing thrown in. And on the water there were Tufted Duck, Mallard and Gadwall, as well as a few Teal that spent most of the day sleeping. I got out the scope for a closer look, since Green Sandpiper had been seen a lot recently. I did not find any green sands, but I did find a Greenshank, that was feeding near the back, my first since I year-ticked them at Potteric Carr.
From my tactical eavesdropping I overheard a birder talk frequently about a pair of Godwits on the mud. I spent so long trying to find these birds, before eavesdropping again while he explained their location to another birder while he explained where the Greenshank was. The Godwits, Black-Tailed, were right next to the Greenshank, so I only needed to get 1 record shot for both species.
-Black-Tailed Godwit and Greenshank
I spent a good couple of hours waiting here for the 'barn owls' to show. There was not much change in the scenery either, the only real additions being that of Avocet, with one feeding at the back, and Common Sandpiper near the front. It moved onto the near shore too eventually so I got some decent photos of it. There were also the Lesser Black-Backed Gulls on the prowl, though they attacked many Black-Headed Gulls I did not see them actually finish one off, they all seemed to get away.
Of course it was not just 'barn owl' that I had wanted to get, since hobby was still well and truly on the agenda, but I figured it was much much less certain than the owl, but it meant I was reluctant to leave the Wader Scrape Hide, should I miss one.
I was tempted though as apparently the Green Sandpipers had been seen on Wath Ings Hide, so I decided to take a short break over that way to see if they were there. They did not disappoint, I picked up 3 birds all showing really well, though not close. This was great to see having only picked it up as a lifer on Monday. The birds did move gradually closer, and were soon pretty close, landing on a small patch of mud in front of the hide, but not as close as they were at Potteric.
I got to watch the bird Preen, which was interesting as I saw that it wet its beak or foot every time before scratching or preening. Its probably well observed and studied but it interested me. I also got to watch one of the birds try to bring up a pellet, I assume, though I did not see it actually expel it.
I got to see so much of the bird, and this time I even heard them calling, leaving me overall much more confident with identification should I come across one at a less expected site, like back home...
I did not stay long, as soon as the Green Sands had moved back to their distant location I withdrew back to Wader Scrape in the hope of Hobby or Barn Owl. I awaited patiently in the hide for another substantial length of time without much happening.
After about half an hour another birder in the hide said the word I had been begging to hear for so long: 'hobby'. As soon as he said it I found the bird drifting above the tree line but coming towards us. It eventually came right up to the hide and then round, giving great views. But sadly they were also brief views. I got some shots but they came out very dark, either way they serve as record shots for the year-list of this species that I have hunted for so long. I waited to see if it would come back but no joy, I thought it had at one point, but then that bird banked with broad wings, revealing itself as a Kestrel.
Having finally seen Hobby, so feeling very good, I decided to head off to try and find some other stuff while I waited for evening to come on and the owls to come out. I went to the garden to see if I could find any speckled bush crickets, but could not. I did find a Nursery Web Spider though, a species I have only previously seen in Suffolk. This one was perched with web atop a nettle, showing off its large size and gold streaks.
-Nursery Web Spider
I decided to head to the Bittern Hide to see if there was anything there. but it also gave views over the reedbed in case the owl decided to show itself. I ended up spending longer in there than I had expected as I got talking a couple who asked me on their chances of seeing the bittern (Very Small). As a result I probably spent over half and hour in there, allowing me to pick up Little Egret which flew over the reeds and then over the trees, and also one of the highlights when a Kingfisher flew past the hide, brief but clear, even catching the orange underneath.
After a little while and the couple had moved on, I decided to return to Wader Scrape to see if the owls were around. The advantage of Wader Scrape is that you can see the entrance to the box in case the young decided to show. Of course they did not, and after half an hours wait, it being only half 5 I decided enough was enough and that they were not going to show. Another late birder was there too, and he also suggested that the birds had moved off, 8 at Edderthorpe apparently...
I decided to leave the reserve and head back, not wanting to mess up my public transport. But on the way out I was given another treat when I flushed from the bank the unmistakable form of a Green Woodpecker. It did not fly far, and even landed in one of the trees along the road. Because it had stuck around I could get a decent view, identifying it as a young bird, which probably explained its boldness when I was clearly out in the open. I managed to get some decent shots of the bird, certainly an improvement on the green smudge from Padleys.
I had expected to walk, but too a trip to the bus stop to find out times just in case. Turns out I timed it perfectly and got one of the later buses. In the grass there were still a few Bee Orchids, but many had gone. Those that were still there were quite clear individuals too, suggesting that if the others had been picked then these may be on borrowed time.
So it had been a mixed day, dipping the owls not good, but that aside it had been a pretty incredible day. Hobby was a massive plus, my 170th species this year. And the woodpecker was a real treat at the end. I picked up a decent day species list too, see below...
Old Moor RSPB: Starling, Dunnock, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Blackbird, Black-Headed Gull, Wren, Mallard, Jackdaw, Mute Swan, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Goldfinch, Pied Wagtail, Grey Heron, Kestrel, Lapwing, Tufted Duck, Cormorant, Moorhen, Coot, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Common Teal, Shoveler, Kingfisher, Gadwall, Greenfinch, Tree Sparrow, Reed Bunting, Stock Dove, Oystercatcher, House Martin, Sand Martin, Swallow, Canada Goose, Graylag Goose, Little Egret, Avocet, Black-Tailed Godwit, Common Tern, Reed Warbler, Swift, Greenshank, Green Woodpecker, Green Sandpiper, Hobby, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Speckled Wood, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Brimstone, Small Skipper, Common Blue, Common Blue Damselfly, Common Blue-Tailed Damselfly, Common Darter, Nursery Web Spider, Zebra Spider,