21st May. I think it must be four or five years, or perhaps even longer since I walked through the oak woodland at Tunstall Reservoir so I was looking forward to a return trip today with Graham and Sam.
As we walked across the reservoir dam we watched Dipper, Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Redshank and Common Sandpiper in what I believe are now the redundant water treatment areas. It wasn’t long before we were watching woodland birds including Nuthatch, one of the males feeding the female at the nest and Treecreeper. Willow Warbler song was filling the air and the occasional Blackcap and Chiffchaff were heard. A Woodcock was watched as it moved around the woodland floor and disappeared into thick vegetation. We were later treated to two more Woodcock lifting a few yards away from us and flying low and deeper into the woods as we chatted. We watched as two, then at least three Song Thrushes seemed to engage in courtship. I have not seen anything quite like this with Song Thrushes as they frantically flew around in circles in a rather confined area as they gave out calls and snatches of song. The botanical interest of the oak woodland wasn’t ignored, although I don’t think we had timed things for the best display.
What we were hoping for during our visit was sightings of Redstart, Pied Flycatcher and Wood Warbler. I’ve never been especially lucky with regard the Wood Warbler and on previous visits have only ever heard it in this area. To be honest I’m not even certain that this species is still a frequent visitor here, but I assume it is. If there were any Wood Warblers present they didn’t show today. Neither did we have any luck in sighting Redstart, although we did hear one. Any disappointment was more than made up for by our sightings of Pied Flycatchers. More than I’ve seen here in the past, probably encouraged by the numerous nest boxes which I don’t remember in such numbers being available in the past, but maybe my memory is playing tricks. I believe we found at least four or five pairs of Pied Flycatcher, some showing really well and close to the pathway (as we watched birds welfare was held as paramount as always). One male fed the female at the nest on several occasions before taking part in some courtship with another female close to the nest site as the other female sat on eggs. I expect a second clutch will be present soon, typical behaviour within this species which take part in polygynous breeding a subject that anyone who watches Spring-watch on TV will be aware. At least two Spotted Flycatchers were also seen. Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard and seen as we spent time watching the behaviour of the Pied Flycatchers.
As we eventually left the woodland at the far end of the reservoir more sightings of Dipper and Common Sandpiper were had along with a couple of Great Crested Grebes, Mute Swan, Greylag Geese with tens of goslings, Grey Heron, Mallard and Moorhens. Calling Curlew were heard flying over as were mewing Common Buzzards.
If there had been nothing else during our walk I would have left satisfied with the sightings of Pied Flycatchers. Beautiful birds indeed. Another rewarding day to add to numerous others that have been experienced so far in 2015. Just sorry that I haven’t a better lens to do justice to the birds. It’s getting closer though.