20th Mar. It being officially springtime Sam and I decided that another trip to Holywell Dene was due. On this occasion concentrating on only a small area for birding and photography. Sam had begun work experience yesterday and now had the day off. That’s the type of work experience I would have liked! :-)
A call at the pond found very little either at the feeding station or on the water. We didn’t stay long as we anticipated stopping off here again on our return. Reed Bunting was seen and at least twelve Pied Wagtails fed in the newly ploughed east field. There were probably more of this species hidden in the dip of the field. Skylark was heard then seen. A Kestrel was seen at some point. We headed down the avenue to the dene, and this area was to fill most of our day.
The water of the Seaton Burn is very low at present and I’m thinking that and heavy rains in the near future may wash out some nests in the bank. Wrens were very numerous and certainly appeared to be building nests low on the bank side. The dene is certainly showing signs of spring with some flora visible now and the air full of bird song. Chiffchaffs sung from high in the trees and could not be found until I heard the huit huit call of one of them coming from a low bush. This eventually provided the first sighting of Chiffchaff for 2012
Nicitating membrane of the Dipper's eye shows here.
What we had really come for where sightings and photographs of the pairs of Dipper and Grey Wagtail. Both were found very quickly and provided us with entertainment for a good period of time. A Dipper/s sung for a short period before showing well and the Grey Wagtails flew up and down the burn collecting nesting material which they took to the nest on regular occasions. Time was well spent watching these birds. Our relaxed style for the day paid off as the likes of Treecreeper appeared nearby and Nuthatch called and was later seen. A Song Thrush’s repetitive song came from high in the trees and the calls of Chaffinches were very evident. We were in quite a dark area of the dene but the sun managed to shine light in patches through the trees and we were soon feeling the heat although the cool wind could still be heard above us. Stock Doves were in the trees above us.
We took some time out from watching the Dippers and Grey Wagtails and walked along the dene footpath. Two Redwings flew up from the burn where they had been bathing and drinking. Sam decided to get some landscape shots from the centre of the burn. Not too difficult to do as the water was so low in places. Still, I decided to stick to the bank! We stopped to talk to a couple out walking and no sooner had they mentioned Great Spotted Woodpeckers when a pair appeared in the trees beside us before flying off above tree level. A pair of Mallard swam on the burn and the area held numerous tits, Robins, Dunnock and Blackbirds. One of the Robins gave the irresistible opportunity for more photographs. The same pair of Grey Wagtails we had been watching earlier was found further down stream. Great Spotted Woodpeckers were heard drumming at times throughout the day. The usual Jackdaws could be heard overhead.
Returning to our starting position in the dene we had more good sightings of the pairs of Dipper and Grey Wagtail and Sam had a really good sighting of a Weasel which I only had the briefest of views as it disappeared into the undergrowth. Our mammal list for the dene is growing.
Walking into a rather more neglected, but over used (some would say for the wrong reasons) area of the dene we found two pairs of Great Spotted Woodpeckers. I reckon between bouts of courtship they were involved in a territorial dispute. Noisy and flying a speed around the tops of the trees and occasionally landing on the branches and trunks of the trees, this provided a very good sighting. I’m sure there must be at least three pairs of Great Spotted Woodpecker in the area of the dene visited today. We spent a little more time in the dene before leaving to the sound of Song Thrush singing.
Back in the pond area we found at least six Tree Sparrows in the hedge. We chatted to volunteer BK who was painting the viewing are at the feeding station some extra wood has been added to each side in an attempt to keep the dogs out. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew into the treetop. We watched as someone in the distance walked their dog across the farmland where Skylarks nest, rather than take the footpath. Sam and I had seen two blokes earlier in the day walk down the far end of the pond with three dogs, allowing them to run into the pond and flush birds from the reeds!
The pond was still noticeably quiet, but the following species can be listed, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Mute Swan, Greylag Geese, Canada Geese, Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Redshank, Black Headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull and Lesser Black Backed Gull.
After finishing my flask of coffee we made for home. It had been a really good day and rewarding day with a species list of fifty-one. Not at all bad considering the relatively small area covered. It had been a day to sit and watch a limited number of species, but in fact it had proven to be very fruitful in the sense that so many other species had appeared. If only the Kingfisher had turned up we would have had a complete set. A wonderful atmosphere in the dene added to by a bit of chat.