Foot It Rehearsal

I had a bit of a try out for January’s Foot It Challenge. Walked roughly half of the circuit I’d worked out, there was just too much road walking (impossible to avoid unfortunately) and my knees started giving me mucho jip. So I’ll have to do things in bits rather than a great long day out.

Set off down to Roundhay Park, and again drew a blank on the house sparrows at the end of my street, I reckon the colony must have either moved or died out. Did have a nice surporise though, found a goldcrest feeding in a birch, always good to see them, even better as it was less than a hundred yards from my house, there’s chance for a garden tick yet. Before I’d reached the park I’d clocked up a dozen species, this was starting to look good for amassing a sizeable list for the day.

The Upper Lake was almost completely frozen over, the only open water being by the fountain in the middle. This meant that there was virtually no waterfowl on the lake, just a handful of moorhens and mallards, with a family group of mute swans. Couple this with around 50 black-headed gulls and you’ve the sum total of the birds there, even the coot had flown the lake.

Heading up through the Gorge I was more hopeful of scoring but all I could find were birds I’d already seen on the way down to the Park, robin, blue tit, great tit and dunnock, try as I might I couldn’t find nuthatch or great spotted woodpecker, even though I visited those areas that I knew held them. I exited the Gorge and crossed the Outer Ring Road to make my way up to Shadwell via the footpath, which the bloody mountain bikers have turned into a blessed mud bath in places.

The walk here was completely bird less, until just before the village a lone red kite angled across the sky in front of me before disappearing behind the small hills to my right. The fields which used to be rough pasture are now cultivated, so the birds are fewer and further between. I reckon I can knock partridge and pheasant off the target list as this was my spot for them, they had been very evident 4 years ago when I did the survey of the area for the BTO Atlas.

When I left the footpath and started walking along the road from Shadwell back towards home I found in quick succession, goldfinch, bullfinch, stock dove and greenfinch all visiting various gardens along the route. Sadly there were some disappointments, a small copse has been replaced with a house and garden, also what had been a very well overgrown garden with plenty of birdlife has been cleaned up, with no life at all visible in it.

As I was reaching the turn off to go down to the Ring Road again, I was lucky enough to be under and overhanging bush when a mistle thrush dropped in to it, only a foot or two above my head. Never seen the under-tail coverts of a mistle thrush so clearly before. A small feeding party of blue tits and great tits making there way through a stand of birches attracted my attention, so I paused to count them, god job I did, as there was a single coal tit in the flock, the 24th species of the day. After crossing the Ring Road and heading up Roman Avenue I had a fly over sparrowhawk, which from the direction it came from must have passed over my garden.

The total for the day was a meagre 27 species, not the hoped for 40+. As the second part of the route I planned out covers some of Eccup Reservoir I’m hoping that I can boost the count some more. Think I might have over estimated the possibilities though with my initial 90 species statement.


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