27th Oct. On Friday night I noted temperatures down to 1.5 degrees by 6:45pm and guessed that it was going to be a cold day on Saturday. A txt from Sam at 10:45pm to say it was snowing had me looking out the window. Yes it was snowing and it looked like a night in mid winter rather than October. I sorted my warmest clothing out for the morning and once out into the fresh air the next day I was glad I had done that. I was also pleased that I’d topped the bird feeders up. Oh well we can relax in the knowledge that the authorities have stock piled enough salt to build a new mountain range. Hopefully, come mid February they won’t suddenly realise that it is the wrong type of salt or that the wrong type of snow is falling!
Sam and I had permission from the NWT to put posters up at Big Waters and Holywell Reserves so we headed for the former first. A Sparrowhawk greeted us on arrival and from the sounds coming from the bushes and trees it soon made a successful kill. A Kestrel was also nearby. Then the walk up to the hide provided little in the way of birdlife. The feeders at the feeding station had yet to be topped up so that was quieter than usual as well, although about a dozen Tree Sparrows fed there and offered some entertainment. Oh, and mustn't forget the Willow Tit that would have made a very good photo had the camera not been in my bag.
Wigeon were on the pond in some number along with a small number of Greylag Geese. Little Grebes were the only other birds that grabbed our attention until Sam spotted a Bittern fly in and disappear into the reed-bed not to be seen again. Not seen by me at all! We stayed in the hide for some time and the only person we saw was I think one of the volunteers. A Grey Partridge flew across opposite the hide. I felt the hide was colder than the air outside and I didn’t warm up at all until we made off. I had hoped a few birds might have been brought in by the cold but we found little. Surprisingly, we did find a Common/Migrant Hawker Dragonfly which refused to settle, but flew around us until we left. It seemed to be catching the odd insect despite the icy cold temperature of the morning.
We eventually made off towards Holywell, spotting a Peregrine Falcon flying over the fields at Seghill.
The pond at Holywell was almost deserted when we arrived apart from a few Greylag Geese, Mute Swan, Little Grebes, Mallards, Teal and eventually two Goldeneye. The new feeding station was deserted as feeding appears to have been put on hold because of the plague of Brown Rats. A small Brown Rat appeared under the feeders at the hide as a few Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and tits fed. A small skein of Pink-footed Geese flew overhead and over the tree-line opposite, corvids mobbed two Common Buzzards and a Peregrine Falcon. The falcon flew off but the buzzards remained and flew in the vicinity. At one point over our heads. I can’t say if the peregrine was the one that we had seen at Seghill or perhaps one of a pair.
We made off in the direction of the dene and by now there was at last a little heat in the sun. We found another Common/Migrant Hawker Dragonfly which spent time flying around us, but again didn’t settle. Nearby a Speckled Wood Butterfly disappeared along the edge of the field. A group of six/seven Grey Partridges were disturbed and flew off.
Autumnal Touch...but it felt like winter!
The burn in the dene was brown, fast, deep and wide and so there was little chance of Dippers appearing. The autumnal look was enhanced by sunlight and gave good opportunities for photographs. I’d previously got my feet a little wet negotiating a flooded path. Sam had been wise and worn wellingtons. Much of the area continues to be flooded and waterlogged. I fear this winter can only bring more widespread flooding to the Northeast as the ground has just had no time to dry out at all. We found the feeding stations empty of feed and birds. We eventually climbed out of the dene and made for the tracks into the open space in the hope of owls. We initially thought the hopes were to be squashed and found only Linnets and Goldfinch in the fields. Never the less we made for out usual viewing point and after a while with only the cattle, including a rather large bull for company, two Short-eared Owls were seen flying along by one of the hedges. They flew north and disappeared until one eventually returned and flew right by us. They later seemed to be hunting in a different area so we made a move.