Sunday was really a tale of two halves in terms of habitats, with raptors being the constant theme throughout the day. The golf course was STILL closed so the father son birding tag team hit the RSPB reserves. Not only is he good company but my dad has a knack of seeing the slightest flourish of feather and has alerted me to a birds presence many times when I’ve had my eye to the telescope looking completely the wrong way. The old two pairs of eyes are better than one cliché it certainly is.
We didn’t set of till mid morning. The plan was to spend an hour or two at Fairburn Ings before nipping down the M62 to get the last few hours in at Blacktoft Sands. Surprisingly even though the weather had been milder and the bulk of the snow gone, large areas of water were still frozen. This was reflected in the number of birds seen. The highlight of many a trip to Fairburn is the Long Eared Owl roost and it didn’t disappoint today either, only one bird was present although the number at any one time does fluctuate. I’ve been before and seen five birds at the same roost site, but whether its one, five or fifteen, you can never get bored of seeing owls in the wild.
Due to the recent conditions Blacktoft Sands had been closed for long periods as the access paths had become hazardous. Rather than trek out there to turn back we used the facilities and got the helpdesk at the visitors centre to phone up and check it was open before setting off, is that abusing the membership? A quick walk around the path before leaving produced 5 Willow Tit, all using the feeders along with good numbers of Tree Sparrow. Willow Tit are very localised birds never seen in any great quantities so a trip to Fairburn is worth it just for this alone. I’ve had singles in the past few years around a few local reservoirs in Huddersfield, none of these areas are a dead cert though. This may be even more so after the recent cold spell? Let’s hope not.
A nice male Chaffinch which frequented the feeding station
In terms of bird numbers, Blacktoft was quiet too but it’s the quality here that makes the place luring. Within seconds we had Marsh Harrier quartering the vast reedbeds, occasionally plunging down on unfortunate prey.
Merlin’s were active too but the real buzz was watching the ghost like aura of a hunting Barn Owl sweeping across the horizon pausing to hover before drifting away. That for me is birdwatching!
As dusk approached, small skeins of Greylag Geese came in, giving company to the franticly feeding lone Shelduck.
A Kestrel had an altercation with the Barn Owl who seemed to be hunting on “his” patch and before we knew it, it was coming dark. Engrossed in the surroundings we had lost track of time. On leaving the reserve, the surrounding fields had feeding Roe Deer and Brown Hare which put the icing on the cake for a superb afternoon.