Last Wednesday I added three new species to my year list, and one of them a new bird for me (which after 30-odd years of birdwatching is no mean feat – although it might just say something about the standard of my talents!)
With a hard frost the landscape was beautiful with bright sunshine glistening on the trees and hedgerows. We decided to opt for a local walk and ended up at Northward Hill where there have been Brambling recently. With his usual diligence Malcolm found the first one before I even had my walking boots on, and then proceeded to show off by finding a second bird. The set-aside area which has been planted with sunflowers was proving to be a real magnet for Chaffinch and other small birds, and as we drove down the lane and then walked back up it, huge numbers of birds flew across in front of us. The Brambling looked beautiful with their colourful plumage showing off really well in the sunlight, a new addition for the year list. We also found Fieldfare, Blackbird, Blue Tit and Great Tit.
After a brisk walk to get some warmth in our feet we decided to move on to Cliffe. A quick picnic lunch in the car park and we were off again, striding out to keep the circulation going. By now the sun had thawed most of the frost and we were back to a green landscape. From the viewpoint below the pinnacle we scanned the birds before us. A Kingfisher appeared just in front of us, it’s bright blue back glinting in the sunshine and thrilling us before darting off with a flash of red chest.
After a count of Coot, Little Grebe and Great Crested Grebe we also noted Teal, Mallard, Pochard, Cormorant, Pintail, and Goldeneye. I saw a couple of ducks in the far distance which made us think of Scaup – we settled on Tufted Duck. Next on Malcolm’s surprise spots was a sleeping duck with what appeared to be a stiff-tail. After watching it for some time with the telescope and our binoculars we decided that it could be the Velvet Scoter which had been reported. Luck was on our side when a Great Crested Grebe got just a little bit too close and the duck showed its head and distinctive bill, and the pale patch on the side of the head. As it retreated from the grebe it flapped its wings and showed off the white panels so distinctive of the species. So there was my first ever Velvet Scoter.
To round off the afternoon, Sally spotted an owl flying over the fields at the far side of the pools over by the Black Barn. Again we called on binoculars and telescope, the wing had a very distinctive white leading edge and as we watched we could confirm that it was a Barn Owl – another addition for the 2012 list.
It just goes to show that there is always something new and exciting to enjoy and the more you watch the more you discover.