Sunday 16 December
After the Work’s Christmas party, there’s nothing like a day out birding to get you feeling human again.
So I gave Ken the word and we drove over to Mirfield to see if we could find the ring-billed gull. The visibility at the lake was pretty grotty, lots of low mist with a fair covering of ice on the water. Spoke to a guy who had been there for a few hours and he’d had no luck at all. A look at the river by the weir gave us a female goosander, several black-headed gulls and a single common gull but no yankee gull. As it wasn’t the warmest of mornings we decided to shoot across to Pugney’s for the long-tailed duck. The parking meters were in operation today so we decided to give it an hour, and took off clockwise round the lake to try the nature reserve lake. Big mistake, more ice and mainly black-headed gulls and lapwings on offer. We found a few goldeneye, and pochard but not much else.
Continuing round the main lake we reached the small hide and there it was sat on the water, glowing in the sunshine, a fine old squaw just starting to moult out of its winter woolies. I have got to get into the habit of picking up my camera when I go birding, the bird was only about 50 yards out and would have made a good picture to adorn this page. My second inland long-tailed duck , the first was the one at Harewood a few years ago now.
The rest of the journey round the lake brought a few more gems, a small group of redwing on the ground feeding with several blackbirds, a little grebe close in by a patch of reeds. All would have been easy pictures. Back at the car we elected to visit the wetlands over the road as there had been scaup reported there earlier in the week. We noted with interest that the Swan and Cygnet had big signs up warning that parking was for patrons only. Good job there was room outside their car park. We climbed the bank and scanned the first lake, plenty of tufted duck, pochard, goldeneye and great crested grebe, but sadly no scaup. We scanned the lake for some time but couldn’t pick up anything that was remotely scaup-like. Moving down to the other lake, taking care to avoid slipping in the mud and doggie-do, we still couldn’t find a scaup, a birder coming up from the bottom end of the lake had done the circuit of both lakes without finding it so we were pretty sure it had moved away for the day. We did find a redshank, Ken heard it first, I saw it, then Ken picked up on a kingfisher flying across the water. Luckily it landed at the base of a bush across the way and I was able to get my scope on it, a nice red lower mandible so it was a lady. As it turned away from us the iridescence of the lower back feathers was such that you could actually pick out with your naked eye, too soon it took off and wasn’t seen again.
Having exhausted the possibilities of the wetlands, and not wanting to get our boots clagged up with dogshit, we resolved to skip walking along the river and head up to Fairburn Ings.
There had been waxwing reported from the Ings earlier in the week so it was a hope… that was dashed. The reserve held little new, but we did have an encounter with a willow tit. One of the most vocal birds I have ever met, it kept up an almost constant stream of calls for several minutes, allowing us to follow its movements in the bushes and trees. I did have a fleeting glimpse of a great spotted woodpecker but sadly Ken couldn’t get on to it quick enough, we found a few siskin feeding in an alder alongside several goldfinches. A very low flyover common buzzard that was initially getting a bit of stick from a carrion crow was the only raptor of the day. On the way back to the car I called another willow tit, this one has a little white line across its head… coal tit, what a pillock I am. All I’d seen was the black bib and added up 2 and 2 and got 7. A trip down Lin Dyke finished off the afternoon, very little extra seen down there, more goldeneye and geese.
All in all a pretty average day but some nice birds seen well. Not a huge species list, only 38 but given we were out for 4 hours and spent about a third of the time travelling I think we did well.