Friday, 30 September 2011

The All Weather Birders Face the Saharan Heat!

Sun Rising in the mist. The sun was in the east as I looked out of the window so I realised if I was on the wrong train, at least I was going in the correct direction!

The mist had cleared at Blacktoft.

Reflecting at Potteric Carr.

29th Sept. Yorkshire was the destination today and I was up at 4:45am in order to catch the 6:22am train to Doncaster where I was meeting fellow all weather birder, Tom. We had planned visits to both RSPB Blacktoft and the Yorkshire W T Reserve at Potteric Carr. We were soon on our way towards Blacktoft as the sun began to burn off the early morning mist. I really like this area of Yorkshire.

You may think my blog title is a little over the top, but I can tell you that walking around the reserves today certainly did not feel as though we were in the UK on a late September day. Hot it certainly was and we were pleased that we had splashed on the sun cream, if perhaps in my case a little too much! We walked for many miles today so liquid refreshment was important too. The white sandy pathways at Blacktoft along with the glare of the sun gave an exotic feel to the day. Blacktoft is a favourite reserve of mine and it didn’t disappoint today, although I was surprised to see some areas completely dry and even more surprised at not finding any Green Sandpipers or Ruff! However there were numbers of Spotted Redshank, well into double figures. One group of eleven feeding in typical style in quite deep water. The other three species of wader very well represented were Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank and Common Snipe. Good sighting was made of a young Water Rail, a year tick.

On arrival at Blacktoft we had been greeted by a fly over of a skein of Greylag Geese and an even larger skein was seen later in the day. Bearded Tits were well represented, but we didn’t get a really good look at any of them. We did hear them and have fleeting fly overs of a few small flocks. Ducks included the likes of Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveller, Wigeon, Teal and Tufted Duck.

Tom spotted Common Buzzard and there were Kestrels in the area. The real pleasure was in watching the Marsh Harriers, often at close range. There were four birds up in the air together for a good time. I never tire of watching harriers. I remember very clearly the first time I saw a Marsh Harrier, which was at Leighton Moss. As we watched the harriers we spotted four Little Egrets flying far away.

We enjoyed a walk up to Ousefleet where there was water. I think the first time I have actually seen water in this particular area. Small Copper Butterflies were seen on the walk and of course many of the local population of Tree Sparrows were seen.

By mid day both Tom and I were hot, thirsty and hungry so we were pleased to find a table in the car-park which was under the shade of the trees. After my lunch I could have happily taken a nap.:-) We decided to leave for Potteric Carr instead.

The last time I had visited Potteric Carr there was conservation work going on over a vast area. I was amazed to see the very positive results and also find some very nicely built new hides. Take note Northumberland! There are at least fourteen hides at Potteric Carr. One of them built in similar style to the all round viewing hide at North Cave, another favourite reserve of mine. The Yorkshire W T is to be congratulated on their achievement here. The other positive point about Potteric Carr is that it is not overly worked. It covers a vast area and some of it has the appearance of being left to nature. The sign of good management and a good reserve.

One of the first birds we sighted was a Green Sandpiper. It didn’t move throughout the time we watched it. I was pleased to be able to show another visitor this through the telescope. Then we set off to walk what seemed miles by the time we reached dusk. Grey Herons and Little Grebe were around in numbers. The newly managed area brought us the largest flock of Lapwing I have seen for many years. Several hundred of them. Very impressive each time they took to the air. We had a fine view of a Kingfisher. I shall be a dude and say that this was my star bird of the day, although the Marsh Harriers closely challenge for that title. The Kingfisher sat initially in the reeds before making the occasional dive, flying off to sit on a post and then flying off into the distance. Two more Little Egrets were found, on this occasion at closer range.

As dusk approached we walked in an area of the reserve which I had not been to before and this meant crossing the railway lines. It was a strange feeling walking through woods on the outskirts of Doncaster and near motorways, with the sounds of passenger and goods trains coming through the trees from several different directions. If it had been darker it would have been really spooky. One of the hides had the main eastern line running right next to it and between it and the pond! We returned to watch the Willow Tits seen earlier but this time had to be content to listen to their calls. We’d also seen Great, Coal, Blue and Long Tailed Tits. We’d begun to hear the calls of Jays and we did eventually see them. Speckled Wood Butterflies were seen and many dragonflies flew with us around the reserve the entire time we were there. Grey Squirrels were also about in large numbers. We returned to see if the Green Sandpiper had remained. It had left. This time of the evening, just before sunset is wonderful on a day like today had been. It was good to watch the sentinel Grey Herons as they watched the water. Now was that bird that flew in the Sandhill Crane (which had been monitored all day) coming into roost or was it just another Grey Heron? Sadly we may never know! :-)

A quick count of the day’s bird species came to sixty. It had been a great day spent in Tom’s locality. Thanks Tom. Its often who you bird with that really matters, and we always have a great day. By the time I was dropped off at Doncaster Railway Station, both all weather birders were cream crackered.

Tired, thirsty and bitten, but unbowed I managed to find my correct seat on the correct train. Not always a simple task at Doncaster I have found. The last time I visited having been given free first class tickets by someone I ended up in Leeds and had to fork out about thirty quid to get back to Newcastle in standard class. That’s another story! The main thing is, Killy has his spark back.


  1. Sounded like a great day. I'm envious especially of the Kingfisher, lol.

    You might be a stone lighter after walking for so-long in the blistering heat, lol, but being an 'all-weather birder' has it's rewards. (I.e. seeing Kingfishers, Water Rails, etc. Lol!).

  2. Cheers Mark. I don't know about being a stone lighter, but the walking does keep you fit.:-)