Thursday, 2 December 2010

Massive Heron

No, not that Massive Heron, the kraut-rock slackers from Leeds, but the Grey one that left these tracks at Stockbridge Nature Reserve, near Keighley, on Sunday morning (with Pheasant tracks going in the opposite direction)…

Big foot
I knew they had big feet, but not this big. BTW, that’s my foot, in the brown Adidas Beckenbauer Allround (size 9.5, if you want an accurate scale). Of course, I soon found it was not the ideal footwear for tramping around a partially frozen marsh (at the Bradford Ornithology Group members-only reserve).

 Stockbridge NR, looking East
Stockbridge NR, looking West

Good views of Water Rail at Stockbridge, as usual. They are almost guaranteed on early mornings from November to March. We had a pair of them fighting over the small area of ice-free water this weekend. Good to get confirmation there are at least two on the reserve.

And I finally got my Waxwings for this year (UK year list now a new record 179). A small flock of four were preening in the trees on the far side of the lake, their silhouettes unmistakeable – upright, Starling-like posture, berry-filled pot bellies, low-hanging wings, and of course those crests. They went over the other side of the council waste site to rest and preen in an ash tree, and then (generally in pairs) took turns to fly across the road to the feed in the berry-laden trees behind B&Q, allowing me to go around a get some great close-up views.

Saturday 27th November, and I very generously gave my wife and kids a lift to Leeds to go shopping for shoes. Almost as if it was planned, I realised I could bob on to Swillington Ings and look for the reported Black-throated Diver. So I did, successfully locating, and losing, the diver several times through the fence at St Aidan’s Lake. Bloody impossible to get a photo of it. Seven Whooper Swans on the lake too, plus a great array of ducks. Nice big open area of water – I think the RSPB is currently doing some development work on it.

Nearer to home was a very obliging Grey Phalarope, at Cononley, North Yorkshire, over the weekend of 20th November. Surprisingly it was feeding on the fast-flowing River Aire when I arrived at 08:00, and apparently had been for at least 30 minutes (thanks to the only other birder there for stopping me from walking off in the wrong direction – a very helpful chap). It soon flew south, but dropped in an hour later at the small pool back at Cononley, just south-east of the river. Within seconds, half-a-dozen birders had appeared from nowhere and proceeded to get what I imagine were better photos than mine:

Grey Phalarope. Peachy.

I tell you, it was an absolute peach of a bird - tiny, like a slim winter-plumaged Black-headed Gull seen from a distance; but on closer inspection revealing the lovely dark lines on the head, and the orange-red on the side of the neck and cheeks like soft blusher. It swam around the edges of the pool picking food from the surface with its delicate bill. A real treat to watch.

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