Saturday, 22 August 2015

Dove Stone

On Tuesday, Mike, Hazel and I set out in lovely sunshine, which was gradually replaced by a brooding steel-grey sky as we headed east. We stopped at Stalybridge to collect Jason, and carried on past Greenfield and into the rolling greenness of the Peak District. I know parts of the Peak District quite well, having lived next to it for three years. However, Dove Stone was a first for me. This is an RSPB reserve on the west side of the Peak, and takes in low ground, high moor and a couple of reservoirs.

We parked up and, while the other three went to the coffee van for drinks, I photographed this perky Pied Wagtail, plus (badly) some of the Swallows and House Martins that were racing overhead.

We took the main trail up (and it is uphill all the way, though not that steep in most places) to Chew Reservoir. You start out in the base of a steep-sided dale, at first in woodland and then on open grassland, with a river rushing along beside you. Gradually you ascend way above the river and eventually up onto the heathery tops. It was an exhilarating climb, which took our minds off the lack of wildlife.

What we did see, bird-wise, was mostly distant or too quick for pics - the latter category including at least three separate flocks of noisy Siskins at the start of the walk. Climbing higher, we saw a pair of Ravens, and several Kestrels. At one point I scanned the river below and found a Grey Wagtail in it. In some stretches the pathside was full of flowers. I was pleased to find one of my favourite flowers among them - Orange Hawkweed - though didn't notice the little caterpillar on it til I processed the photo earlier today.

I'd presumed that the raptor hassling this Raven was a Kestrel, given that we'd just that minute walked past our fourth Kestrel... but on massively cropping the very distant pics I saw that it was in fact a juvenile Peregrine.

An actual Kestrel, close to the top of the trail, taking a breather on a big rock.

As we did the last steep bit of path to the reservoir, it began to rain. There had been no sign whatsoever of my main target, Mountain Hare. It was difficult to be all that cheery about things. However, the view over the reservoir and across the wild rough grassy moor all around was uplifting in a very wild and moorlandish sort of way.

The reservoir itself is rather small and, like a lot of these upland waters, devoid of birds actually ON it, but there were some birds around it - another Pied Wag, a few Meadow Pipits including this one, and a few Swallows. The moor around looked highly promising for Mountain Hares but the weather didn't. We turned around and headed back down.

We'd not been long on the return path when a flock of Red Grouse appeared on our side of the trail. They then flew across the valley. Here's my rather lame attempt to catch one in flight.

On the far side, they were really too distant for pics but here's a female posing in typical grousey habitat.

A separate flock of Red Grouse flew over the top of where flock 1 had landed, breaking the skyline which turned them into (photographable) silhouettes. I must say that it felt odd pointing my camera at these birds, so controversial because a small number of people are so keen to point guns at them. At least they will not be shot at here, and hopefully nor would any Hen Harriers that chose to settle here and breed.

A blurry noisy Goldfinch, tucking into thistledown amidst increasingly heavy rain. We reclaimed the car with some relief, had a rainy day picnic inside it, and then drove on to Binn Green, a nearby site where H and M had previously seen Crossbills.

Crossbills mean pine trees, and while we found no Crossbills we did find another pine tree bird, this Goldcrest. The feeding station here was empty of food but Hazel chucked some suet pellets onto the bird table and was rewarded almost instantly by several visiting Coal Tits, Blue Tits, Great Tits and Robins. But the rain just got heavier, and in the end we gave up and went off to a very nice pub for the rest of the afternoon.

By hometime the rain had stopped and the sun was out. I spent an hour or so before tea in H and M's wonderful big garden, taking pictures of waterlilies, a Coal Tit that really wanted to show off its badger-stripe, and a Robin toying with a mealworm.

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