Saturday, 9 May 2015

Blacka Moor and Padley Gorge

So for today, as my first full day out for a while I decided to head into the peaks to yeartick all my summer migrants and hopefully tick off my second biggest tart tick in the form of Wood Warbler. One has been setting up in Blacka Moor Plantation for a few days and had been seen regularly, though the amount of information I was getting was not overly helpful and I was not confident that I would be able to find it. It was a pretty grim morning, with the cloud covering varying between thick and not as thick with occasional drizzle, with a reasonable breeze. I was not optimistic to say the least. 
I got the bus to the site and set off down the hill to the first track that ran straight through the plantation and hopefully the warbler would be trilling somewhere near the path where I would be able to find it.
There were many birds calling as I made my way along the path, including tree pipit, which I decided to leave as it was distant and I assumed I would see one at Padley Gorge. Tree pipit was in fact the only one of my 6 targets I did not see, which was unexpected given it is by far the most abundant.
Not much longer after I entered the plantation I thought I could hear a trill, but it was too distant and with all the other birds calling I could not rule out wren. However, as I got closer the sound became unmistakable just off the path. I made my way through the wood and quickly got eyes upon my target.
It was a very vocal bird but also very mobile and did not like to sit and show well, more often flitting around in trees that were themselves obscured. I spent about an hour watching this superb little bird as it moved around. Within the last 5 mins of my watch it came reasonably close and even sat above my head but light proved an issue for getting good photos, though I have some reasonable record shots. Sadly light was an issue all day and I did not get many good photos. Nevertheless I was thrilled to have caught the bird and been able toe enjoy it for a reasonable length of time. Fantastic!
-Wood Warbler
After and hour or so the bird stopped trilling for a little while so I decided to move on. My plan was to walk across the moor, through Longshaw estate and then into Padley Gorge to hopefully gather up all the migrants. Along the back of the plantation I got Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff, and I'm pretty certain I heard garden warbler but I did not see it and cannot rule out blackcap.
The plantation thinned out into moorland, and then it became pasture. As I wandered through the pasture I put up many Meadow Pipits, but little else. I scanned the walls for anything else and set my eyes upon a fantastic looking Whinchat which was flitting around. I tried to get closer but it was difficult to approach. Having said that, with a little patience I managed to get my best ever shots of this species and I am very happy with the results. Not a bad way to year-tick these little beauties.
Also along the fields was a Wheatear and a Reed Bunting, the latter being somewhat unexpected. I failed to find a path through the moors so really ended up walking alongside the road to Longshaw in the hope that I might land on something good. Opposite the Fox House pub just before Longshaw I spotted a lovely male Stonechat just over the wall. Sadly he also saw me and moved away but not too far, so I managed to get some decent shots of it.
It was my first visit to the Longshaw estate and I was not blown away to say the least. Having heard good things I expected to see a few bits and pieces but there were only really garden birds. The only real surprise were 3 male Mandarin on the ponds. They, of course, looked lovely, but the light was playing absolute havoc with most things and I think the photos reflect that...
It was my first visit to Padleys of the year and it felt good to be back, despite the weather. No sooner was I back on the soil did I start to pick out the summer migrants with a fantastic pair of Whinchat. Sadly they did not show closely and I was restricted to record shots but the male looked nothing short of suberb, the best I have ever seen this species looking. What a beauty.
I had heard a Cuckoo whilst at Blacka but nothing since. However I started to pick up a few stray calls and was hopefully of possibly seeing one. I was in luck as just round the corner where the moor and forest meet I caught one flitting among the heather. My curiosity as to why it was there was quickly solved when two Meadow Pipits came charging it to mob it, obviously their nest had been targetted by the Cuckoo. I can only wish I had got a better shot as my record shots were woeful but the bird was not easy to approach and constantly kept moving away even when I remained still.
There were no tree pipits singing on the woodland edge, which is possibly the first time I have not seen this species here. And the wood itself was bare of pied flys and redstarts, I was unable to find any in the usual spots. The highlight was a singing Siskin, which was nice, but it was from the tops of the tree and I could get nothing on it.
I caught up with a small birdwatching party that had come for the day to look at the flycatchers but they too had not seen any. We headed on up the valley as I hoped that there may be some in the birch scrub up at the top end. What I found was much more exciting.
I was wandering along scanning when I noticed a small greyish blob in the birches. I wondered if it were a plant or unusual fungus so raised the bins to have a closer look and was blown away to see that it was actually a Tawny Owl fledgling. It had begun to develop primaries so was obviously quite well developed but was very docile. I did not want to approach too close so stayed well back but managed to get some decent photos of this really unexpected sighting.
-Tawny Owl
It was while we were checking out the owl that a few other bits and pieces started to appear. A male Redstart was obviously holding a territory in this area as he came around singing a couple of times. He was always at the top of the trees though and the light continued to make photos pretty much impossible but I did manage a record shot for the year. When he did come down he was a spectacular bird to look at, and the song was very distinctive to listen to as well.
-Common Redstart
It was also while we were here that I caught Pied Flycatcher for the year, with a brief appearance from a pair high up in the trees, again very difficult to photograph. They did not stick around and there is little else to say about them, but I spotted another young bird later on back on the woodland fringe and I managed a slightly better shot of that. Also while we were here 2 Cuckoos flew overhead through the trees, but they did not stop at all.
-Pied Flycatcher
I took the birders to look at the Whinchats before they headed off into Longshaw. After they left I headed back round to try and get tree pipit again, but no joy. I got an additional Pied Flycatcher and another male Redstart, but the real highlight was a big patch tick.
I saw a bird with a similar profile to cuckoo coming towards me, so raised my camera in anticipation and began snapping. However, as it got closer it became clear this was not a cuckoo and so I began to wonder, possibly Kestrel? but as it came closer again it was clearly not a kestrel as it was so big, but by now it was pretty clear what it was, a Peregrine. I did not expect to see one here, that's for certain. It only flew over my head and I lost it behind the trees but it was certainly something to see and ended an exceptional day on a massive high.
I failed on tree pipit but got all the other migrants I wanted including life ticking Wood Warbler. It really was a great day out birding, and were it not for the weather, could have got some decent photos too. I covered a lot of sites, including some I have not been to before but will keep and eye open in future, they certainly have potential for some good stuff.

Species List:
Blacka Moor: Willow Warbler, Wren, Chaffinch, Robin, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Wood Warbler, Blue Tit, Carrion Crow, Great Tit, Woodpigeon, Song Thrush, Coal Tit, Chiffchaff, Meadow Pipit, Whinchat, Wheatear, Reed Bunting, Skylark, Curlew, Kestrel, Stonechat, Magpie,
Padley Gorge: Magpie, Mallard, Jackdaw, Chaffinch, Pied Wagtail, Woodpigeon, Mandarin, Carrion Crow, Blue Tit, Meadow Pipit, Whinchat, Cuckoo, Willow Warbler, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blackbird, Coal Tit, Wren, Siskin, Treecreeper, Robin, Nuthatch, Tawny Owl, Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, Curlew, Feral Pigeon, Peregrine, Kestrel

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