7th Jan. I was up and eager to leave for Holywell before sunrise, but once I had heard the forecast for drier weather around 10.00am it seemed more appropriate to delay my walk until a little later. I arrived at Holywell just before 10.00am and just as the rain was ceasing. I have recently had cause to discuss walking repeatedly in familiar surroundings, and it is something that I believe can be enjoyed to the full rather than becoming boring. I find myself watching for changes from day to day and season to season and giving thought to the historical aspects of the areas I walk in, especially in respect to those who have trodden the area over the years, often no doubt because of need rather than simply pleasure. Anyway, today began with the good intentions of walking down to St Mary’s Island, a walk I have completed on many occasions and always enjoyed. Good intentions are not always achieved and today was one of those times.
On arrival and finding Curlews feeding in the field alongside Canada Geese, a Great Spotted Woodpecker fly into the trees next to me, and much in the way of bird calling and song, I was optimistic that there could to be much to be found today. My optimism dropped somewhat once in the members hide and finding an almost deserted pond outside. From my place on the bench I could see a pair of Mute Swans, a single Teal, Mallards and a few Tufted Duck and I find, as I have said before, that the area directly out side of the hide is not what it used to be, although there was a Pheasant here today along with Moorhen and a few tits and a Wren. I had seen a Common Buzzard on a fence as I walked towards the hide and on looking to see what had disturbed the gulls and Lapwings near to the public hide, I saw what was likely the same Common Buzzard stretching its wings whilst perched on the fence. It would have made a good photo had I been much closer. The white boards behind me had written on them something along the lines of ‘mark sightings here’, under which there was nothing at all written. I waited a while in the hope that something else might appear on or over the water, but saw nothing else of note. I’ve has some excellent sightings from this hide over the years, but not today.
Walking down to the public hide I found that the Common Buzzard had left and apart from a few more gulls, Teal and a single Grey Heron on the island, I found nothing else to add to what had been seen previously. I didn’t see the Buzzard again but throughout my time in the area I did hear Buzzards calling from time to time.
A skein of Pink-footed Geese flew eastwards as I continued the walk and a skein of Canada Geese flew towards the pond. By now I realised I wasn’t feeling on top of the world which maybe explained my ‘cup half empty’ attitude, and so I decided to call off my walk to St Mary’s Island and instead concentrate my efforts in the fields north of the dene and in the eastern end of the dene in search of my target bird, the Dipper as I had reasoned that given a little time I would more than likely find it here. On the Avenue I had a rather nice encounter with a pair of Bullfinches feeding on the brambles. The female being much the most confiding of the pair. Without any scientific study to back me up, I would make a guess that the Bullfinch as a species has done quite well locally in recent years. I base that idea simply on the numbers I now see. I felt rather happier having watched the Bullfinches and photographed the female.
I walked a good way northward into the fields and with the wind in my face. I found little to nothing until a small flock of calling Fieldfare flew overhead. The bright yellow of the gorse added some cheer to barren surroundings. Then later as I walked southward towards the dene I found the flock of Reed Bunting flying from feeding in the field to the hedge where I had seen them on my last visit. On this occasion they were accompanied by a Yellowhammer. As I walked along the path they lifted on several occasions to stay a reasonable distance ahead of me until they eventually doubled back to the feeding spot. Then I met the mud, which was to stay with me of and on throughout my time in the dene.
Area almost devoid of birds.
Gorse at least gave some colour.
Whilst the dene still has that winter look about it there also seemed to be a feel of coming spring. Nuthatch calls were the first sounds to greet me as I made my way to the culvert. I stopped in this area for a bite to eat and watched for signs of Dipper. Of course, I know they may well be nesting at this time of year. I heard no Dipper song and had no sightings. I decided after a while to walk up stream thinking this would give me my best chances of a sighting and at least the water turned out to be clearer here. I watched for a while at the other side of the culvert where I had good sightings of Grey Wagtail. A pair of Mallard were settled in the area too. Still no Dipper so I carried on walking eastward checking out all the likely rocky areas. I did find the likely looking white markings left by Dippers, but no birds. I was walking carefully on the muddy banked paths as I feared slipping and ending up in the burn.
I eventually called it a day having developed an aching back and a very sore toe, but despite my aches and failure I felt more cheerful after my walk. I made off home with Dipper still not on my year list, but at least now the sun was shining and it was quite warm. I must complete the full walk down to St Mary’s Island soon.