30 September 2007

The right choice...

This morning I had a choice to make, either go for a ride on the mountain bike, go for a long walk (as a warm up to the British Heart Foundation walk I’ll be doing in November), or go out birding. I chose birding and boy was it the right choice! The species count wasn’t too high but, after over 15 years of trying, I finally got my first Marsh Harrier in Derbyshire. To make things even better it was at my local patch, Willington Gravel Pits.

I arrived at Willington at 8:00AM and found much of the water covered with a light mist. The sky was clear and a light breeze soon moved the mist off the water, things looked good for a nice morning’s birding. The walk down the lane gave good views of many of the regular species including Robin, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Wren and Reed Bunting.

Early morning mist over the water.

The main expanse of water, Gull Pit, held a small number of duck, mainly Mallard and Teal but also two Wigeon and a handful of Gadwall. From the viewing platform that overlooks Gull Pit I also saw Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Sparrowhawk and Willow Tit.

At just after 9:00AM it finally happened, Marsh Harrier! Flying in over Flyash Pit came the one bird that I have dipped out on more than any other at Willington. It’s not that Marsh Harrier is particularly rare here, they turn up a few times each year, it’s just that I’ve never managed to be in the right place at the right time until now! The bird showed well for around five minutes, being mobbed by Lapwings, before slowly drifting off to the west.

Morning dew on a spider's web.

After the harrier, anything else was just a bonus. I walked down to the end of the lane adding Sand Martin, Swallow, Skylark and Pheasant to my list. Just as I reached the end of the lane, and started to climb up onto the viewing platform, the noise of wings beating caught my attention. Looking over Flyash Pit I saw two birds starting to take flight - swans.

At first glance, I guessed that they must be Mute Swans, and then I saw the yellow on the bills. In a mad panic, I grabbed my ‘bins, almost dropping my ‘scope in the process, and quickly focused in on the now flying birds. I could have fallen off the platform backwards! Two Whooper Swans flew slowly across the water before turning away from me and heading off into the distance! Getting a harrier was good but this was totally unexpected!

The rest of the morning was a little more like a normal Willington day. Kingfisher, Jay, House Martin and Bullfinch all found their way onto my day list giving me a total of 49 species seen, plus three more that I only heard - Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Little Owl.

Autumn colour starting to show.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a marvelous way to spend the day :o)

    I'm glad you finally got to see the Marsh Harrier.

    Now...off to Google for pictures.

    xx ~S~