Saturday, 24 August 2013

Away from home

After more dips searching for Clouded Yellow than I care to remember (I got up early today only to be confronted with rain sheeting down, great) Debs and I escaped to Derbyshire for a week away. I had managed to convince Debs it was worth doubling back on ourselves in order to visit the Birdfair, so this we did on the Saturday. As usual, we divided our time between talks, book searching and chatting to a few friends. Jari Peltomaki's excellent presentation on the Owls of Finland was one of the best I have seen at Birdfair, polished to say the least. We also attended talks on Birding in Spain and the Wildlife on Yellowstone; both hot contenders for honeymoon/future trips. Incidentally, I have just finished Stuart Winter's gripping 'The birdman abroad'. His descriptions of American Warblers have pushed the USA right to the top of my must visit list.

Back in Derbyshire, it was birding in the dales for the week. The hills and the peaks for me offer a piece of wilderness we don't have in Norfolk. I come here and sense an urge to climb, to inspect distant woodland and to traipse across heather moorland. We did a bit of this! Around Dovedale, we enjoyed a relaxed circular walk encountering some excellent upland birds. A Dipper was typically poised on rocks by a fast flowing stream. A Grey Wagtail fed nervously on a small flash. We were treated to excellent views of a family of Wheatear, the young newly fledged. I have never seen downy Wheatears before. A male Redstart offered a few tantalising glimpses, reminding me of the excellent Surlingham bird earlier this year. Peregrine yelled from the peak above, fending off constant raids from the local Corvids. Stunning vistas and a pleasure to watch all of this play out.

The heather Moorland around Beeley is not easy to work, but having been relatively successful on our last visit 3 years ago, we visited the same area. Sure enough, we had a hunting female Merlin in the bins before long! Sparrowhawk and Buzzard completed the Raptor count.

Closer to our base in Milford, we visited local reserves such as Wyver Lane and Carsington Water. Although we saw little of note, it was just nice to bird new areas, enjoy a different landscape and again see a Dipper! Carsington turned out to be a good spot for Tree Sparrow, a delightful bird not common in Norfolk. Debbie picked up a Common Sandpiper here too.

Couple of highlights to round things off. Driving back from Dovedale after a superb meal in Alstonefield, a Tawny Owl was out and about nice and early for us. Perched on wires, he gazed down at us before disappearing into the forest. Finally, exploring the Coombes Valley across the border in Staffs I opened up a disused nest box to see what nesting material the Pied Flycatchers had been using. To my pleasant surprise, a Brown Long-eared Bat was roosting inside the box. The little fellow peered up at me, confused no doubt. I closed the box, leaving him in peace and counting myself very lucky.

Speaking of Pied Flys, a few have arrived at typical coastal locations today along with the odd Wryneck. The weather looks decent for the weekend, but whether I like it or not I am off to a speed awareness course (got the ticket on the way back from a Bat survey late one night) followed but Notting Hill Carnival for a final blow out before the final week of holidays.

 Eying up a bird
 Painted Lady- my third of the year after 2 at Queen's Hills
 Wheatear Family
 View from Sheepwash hide at Carsington Water
'Cave' (?) Mushrooms at Wyver Lane 

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