Saturday, 5 December 2009

A (Not So) Deep & Dark December

Sunshine is infinitely more appreciated in the midst of winter don't you think? A calm, warm, sunny December day brings a much needed lift and a break from the rain and darkness. I took advantage Friday and went west. I stopped at Whittle Dene to see if the Great Northern Diver was a) still present and b) photograph-able; it was there but appeared very wary and kept to the centre of the west reservoir. I went back on the return journey and it had hardly moved.
I had other plans so I didn't sit and wait. Two Common Buzzard came over low during the afternoon visit.
Hawfinch was what I had planned but despite touring a number of past sites I was to be disappointed. A walk along the south side of the river at Allenbanks produced a large mixed flock of woodland birds Nuthatch, Chaffinch, as well as Blue, Great & Coal Tit. I stopped for a while in the dappled light as birds moved all around me, Coal Tits in particular were numerous with at least ten in this flock, mainly ground feeding in leaf litter and bare patches on the steep banked wood floor. Challenging light, fully manual I didn't do too well with much of what I shot ending up in the bin. I added another tit species, this time Willow Tit at Prestwick Carr on the way home as I passed through mainly in the hope of an early flying Short-eared Owl in fantastic light, again not to be.

Great Tit
Coal Tit

Willow Tit
Driving up to Plenmeller & Lanehead provided more soul food, the early afternoon light with that deep quality that seems to accentuate the browns and yellows of the grasses and heather at this time of year and add depth to every colour and shadow. Not so many Pheasant around now, presumably many have served their purpose, although a small number of Red-legged Partridge remain in the area calmly plodding off through tangled undergrowth when the car stops.

Red-legged Partridge
Up on Plenmeller it was quiet apart from a few Red Grouse keeping low in the heather. I had no raptors despite the sunshine and I couldn't find any Black Grouse despite a couple of hours of
checking various locations around the area. Perhaps higher up for the winter.

Red Grouse, female
Over Lanehead I chanced upon another winter flock this time Siskin about 20 strong they moved along a line of Alder. Whilst they allowed close approach the multitude of small branches and their seeming inability to come right out to the edges preferring to be slightly inside the protective cover of the trees left me doing an impromptu aerobics session as alternately stretched and crouched trying to capture a clear shot. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was also still high up feeding in the same area. A third Common Buzzard drifted over the open moorland to the north east.
Bird of the day would have been the single Twite unexpectedly amongst the Siskin flock, but for the small matter of it not been one, at all, no Twiteness, none. It is, as has been pointed out from two counties, a spectacular mistake as its a Redpoll, which of course is why it's feeding with Siskin in an Alder and not on weedy dune in Cleveland with all its mates. I think I need to lie down now.


Andrew Kinghorn said...

Sounds like a good day Alan.

Stewart said...

Alan, er its a Redpoll. Butterfingers....

Alan Tilmouth said...

Note to self - Twit.