Sunday, 2 August 2009

Hard In Harwood

Setting off inland early in sunshine I was quickly enveloped in cloud cover and by the time I reached Harwood village it was a chilly 13c. I called in at a couple of small lakes on the way including Rothley but in a brisk breeze there was little to be seen on either. I was intent on trying to capture some shots of Common Crossbill figuring that this recent influx gave me as good an opportunity as I was going to get. If Bobby Robson had been a birder he would tell you the tale of this trip was a 'game of two halves', such a big personality leaves a void but I'm sure his family will take comfort from every one's expressions of condolence.
This time of year is traditionally quiet in woodland and I suppose commercial forests like Harwood are going to be as quiet as it gets. However there's always possibilities, encouragement was taken from the Great Grey Shrike on Alston Moor yesterday. After a half mile my first birds were a family of Coal Tit high in conifers and a little elusive.

Coal Tit.
A further half mile in I had a party of six Common Crossbill, calling then landing high up but visible 200m back down the track I had come along. A dilemma then should I go back and have a go at them or continue on? I decided to move on, they were high, the sky was grey and I hoped to get better chances further in, convinced there would be some bigger groups.
Another half mile round and a family of Whinchat clicked away at me from a clear fell area that was probably last years judging by the growth. I spent an hour trying to get close enough for a good image, they spent the hour doing everything possible to ensure a different outcome.
Whinchat doing awkward.
So record shots were all I could manage. Other birds around in this area were Green Woodpecker, Siskin, Reed Bunting and the occasional Buzzard calling. There was a surprising lack of small insects, no biting flies very little on the wing at all. Don't recall a single butterfly all morning.

Whinchat, juvenile.

Whinchat, adult.
After walking on another 5-600m I stopped again attracted by a couple of Grey Wags. Two Roe Deer fed in the distance, again nothing more than a record shot below.
Roe deer.

A pair of Grey Wagtail were around a small stream running from one patch of clear fell into an older cleared area. It seemed a little unusual to see them perched on tree stumps and shattered trunks & branches but the stream was so small, it was hard to see how it would sustain them.

Grey Wagtail.
As I sat a Common Buzzard was calling loudly from a tall stand of pines nearby, it got up and was obviously in the middle of moult as it's flight feathers were a state. Seconds later a juvenile powered around the corner of the same stand toward me. I fired off a few shots but I was expecting little and the results confirmed I'd made the right choice about the Crossbill, dark birds, grey skies don't equate to good images, see below.

Common Buzzard, presumed juvenile.
With time running out I headed back. Approaching the area where the Whinchat had been, I suddenly heard the sound of Crossbills calling, two then dropped in to a small bare tree just ahead. Knowing their reputation for tolerating people reasonably close I moved along the track level with the tree. Fired off a few shots and did a quick check, the echoes from my screams rang around the empty valley and trees, dark bird, grey background, shit results.
Common Crossbill, male, not playing fair.
Crouching, I waited the female began to drop, till she was low enough to start shooting.

Common Crossbill, female.
Then Bob's your uncle, or your dad in my case, the male followed her down. For several minutes it sat observing me as I rapidly filled my boots and a 1GB card. It was looking down, around, left,right and I realised it was going to drop into the water filled ditch to drink. I remember some years back when the Two Barred was at Harwood, learning that Crossbill need to drink regularly as a result of their diet.

Common Crossbill, male.

Common Crossbill, male.

Common Crossbill, male.
So the morning ended well, i picked up another Green Woodpecker, a juvenile, two Jay another three Common Crossbill and a few other odds & sods.
One more bird for the day came on the way home from Alnmouth tonight when a Herring Gull had picked a fight way out of its league with a Peregrine on the Coquet. The Peregrine launched at it and the HG was made to look as graceful as a Lancaster Bomber.


Stewart said...

Them's lovely Crossbill pics Alan, probably your best so far, great stuff.

Alan Tilmouth said...

Thanks Stewart, they made it easy unlike the Whinchat.