Sunday, 29 November 2009

Walk Ends With 'Golden' Treat.

Setting Off.
A few of the Golden Plovers.

Homeward Bound.

27th Nov. It was a cool, but bright morning as I left to start my pond, woods and coast walk, with the rising sun still painting the sky in the east a rather nice shade of orange. My first excitement of the day was to have a Kestrel fly directly at me as I walked between the village and Holywell Pond. I’m not sure if I had put it off a target prey item, but it appeared to fly directly at me until making a manoeuvre and flying over the nearby rooftops. I remembered a similar experience I once had when a hunting Sparrowhawk had narrowly, it seemed to me, missed my face as I walked through woodland. I also had a similar experience with a Barn Owl which flew directly at me, as if I wasn’t registering with it, before to veered off over a hedge.

I must say recent visits to Holywell pond have not been especially productive in terms of bird numbers. Today I was expecting much, but was rather disappointed. The expected flocks of waterfowl, especially Teal and Wigeon, just weren’t there. I found no Teal at all and only one pair of Wigeon. Have I just been unlucky? I found only one pair of Goldeneye, a small flock of Pochard and one Little Grebe amongst the Mallard, Moorhen and Coots. A small flock of Lapwing and four calling Redshank made a brief appearance over the pond. The feeding station I know has been the target of vandalism and that may explain the lack of available feed, but what was there was attracting tits, and small numbers of Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Dunnock, Robin and Wren, along with a female Pheasant. The water of the pond was quite high and judging by the waterlogged surroundings had been much higher in recent days. I decided to take a look from the public hide to see if I had been missing anything and just then numbers of Greylag and Pink-footed Geese flew in and landed on the fields behind the tree line. Only one lone Greylag called from the pond, as if it had drifted from its companions. Gulls on the water were, Black Headed, Common, Herring and Greater Black Backed. I found nothing more from the public hide from where the pond looked even more bereft of birdlife. Having spoken to a passerby the pond seems to have been very quiet recently. Having said this, there had been enough activity to make the visit well worthwhile. Sadly a dog walker found it quite ok to let his two dogs run loose around the reserve and down to the pond. I think I have seen more unacceptable behaviour by dog walkers on this my favourite local walk, than anywhere else I visit.

The woodland of the dene didn’t provide large numbers of birds either, apart from a constant fly past of Great, Coal and Blue Tits. A male Blackcap give a good showing as did a pair of Grey Wagtails that were found on the mud at the side of the burn, their wonderful colouring showing especially well in the limited light that was available. A passerby asked if I had seen the Kingfisher. He had watched it fly up the burn. Needless to say I have still to see Kingfisher in the dene. Perhaps I need to spend a day on one of the bridges to break my duck in this respect. A Brown Hare rested under the trees as I passed by and another Kestrel flew overhead.

The tide was high so there was good numbers of Redshank around the area of the salt marsh. I also had a good close sighting of a female Goldeneye here before it decided to fly up the burn. A Little Grebe was also on the burn, but dived and wasn’t seen again. It was now time to sit down for my fish and chip lunch, but not before finding a number of Oystercatchers along the verge by the roadway. It had been a fine morning weather wise and so I found it odd that there were so few people about, and even the fish and chip cafĂ© was very quiet.

The tide was beginning to recede as I walked towards St Mary’s Island. There was little on the sea apart from small rafts of Eider Duck. Oystercatchers, Redshank and an odd Ringed Plover made an appearance on the shore below. A lone Lapwing and Curlew was found in the fields along with a pair of Stonechat. As I continued the walk I saw in the distance flocks of what I initially mistook for Starlings. Strange how distance can play tricks on the eyes. I soon realised they were Golden Plover, and by the time I reached the ‘mast’ field small flocks had gathered into a large flock and were calling in unison from the field. More and more birds flew in to join the growing flock and this made for quite a sight. This was catching the attention of a number of none birders who were keen to know what species the birds were. A photographer was busy taking photographs and I heard him admit he wasn’t a birder but had been ‘taken’ by the sight. I reckon there were at least a thousand birds in the field by the time they had all flown in. I watched and listened for some time. The birds stopped calling as one and as I expected took to flight. At times the flock provided a display that was on par with Starlings coming into roost. For the rest of the afternoon I was entertained by flocks of Golden Plover. This was quite a sight in the and there was perfect light and conditions for watching this show which to me seemed to be birding at its very best! Certainly wader watching at its best!

The shoreline close to St Mary’s, both to the north and south held good numbers of waders. Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Turnstone, Sanderling, Purple Sandpiper, Redshank and Curlew were all there, generally in good numbers. There were also numbers of Rock Pipit. I thought I best give the wetland area a quick look over just in case! In fact there were good numbers of Gadwall and Teal there with the odd pair of Wigeon and a Mute Swan.
It was time to make off towards home now and as I did so I found the sky turning a pale orange again reflecting the fact that the days are so short at this time of year. The temperature was dropping quickly. What had seemed such a quiet day had turned up 57 species of bird and a display by the Golden Plovers that will go down as one of this years birding highlights.


  1. You mention dogs at Holywell being a problem or their owners should i say. There is one bloke who looks like a birder with two large dogs. He always allows his dogs to run around the reserve whilst asking if i have seen anything.

    The last time i told him " No because your bloody dogs are scareing everything"

    It really is a problem at Holywell. I dont think people realise it is a nature reserve.

  2. I like dogs Davy, but their are some owners who appear to need a common sense transplant! Afraid we have to live with the thoughtless minority. On or off reserves dogs should be under control, but some ownwers seem to be of the opinion their pets are free to roam anywhere! Cheers Brian.

  3. Seems you had alot down the burn, and a good day. Regarding dog owners, its always been a problem at Holywell even words have been exchanged, I wouldn't dream of letting my dog off in the area. Brian, we'll have to get out over the christmas if you have any free days. Cheers, Cain

  4. Hi Cain. Just let me know when your free and we'll catch up. Hope all is well in Cumbria. Holywell is missing its birder! ;-) Cheers Brian