At just before 7:00am I arrived at Shipley Park and the moment I switched the car off I was aware of a Tawny Owl calling not too far away, a new species for my year list. As I opened the car door a second Tawny called back to the first one, this then set the first bird off again! This carried on for a couple of minutes whilst I was pulling on my coat and walking boots and then, all of a sudden, one of the calls became a lot louder - one of the Tawny Owls had landed in a tree less than 30 feet away! As this point I’d like to thank Leica for making such amazing optics - my 8x42 binoculars were pulling in more than enough light for me to get great views of the owl!
As the sky was now starting to show a little more light I headed off in search of my target species, a Short-eared Owl. The SEO had been reported at daybreak most mornings for almost a week so I was reasonably confident that I’d be able to locate it. The owl had other ideas and didn’t show at all. I did manage to get good views of two more Tawny Owls though, so the morning wasn’t without its highlights. Once it became clear that the Short-eared wasn’t going to show I briefly checked the lake and scrub area around the old American Adventure theme park. In total I managed to record a total of 24 species before heading back to the car.
Although I didn’t make any counts, birds of note included Great Crested Grebe, Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Green Woodpecker, Pied Wagtail, Bullfinch and, of course, the 3 Tawny Owls. I was starting to feel the cold, I was tired, but I was also very happy! At 8:45am I was back in the car enjoying the warmth from the heater as I headed back towards home.
As I left Shipley the plan was to drive straight back home and spend the rest of the day inside, perhaps trying to catch up on some sleep. Just a couple of miles from home and I changed my plans. I decided to try, once again, for Whooper Swan at Ambaston. I spent a further hour checking the River Derwent here and still didn’t locate the swans. I’m slowly starting to think that they may well have left the area. Birds I did see included 9 Mute Swan, 4 Goldeneye, 2 Goosander, a male Sparrowhawk, a Buzzard, 1 Snipe, 12 Fieldfare and a Jay.
With the time now 10:00am I was really starting to feel the pull of a warm house and a large mug of coffee, but chose to delay both just a little longer and checked Ambaston Gravel Pit. This proved to be good decision as the very first bird I put my ‘bins on turned out to be a stunning male Red-crested Pochard, another new bird for my “10-Mile List”. I did manage a couple of record shots of the bird but they, unfortunately, didn’t turn out too good. Either I was too cold and shaking the camera or the duck was equally as cold and shaking as much as I was. The result was a number of slightly blurred photos!
Sharing the water with the pochard were a Little Grebe, a Great Crested Grebe, 2 Mute Swan, a pair of Wigeon, 2 pairs of Gadwall, 22 Tufted Duck and 60 Coot. A female pheasant was skulking about at the edge of the reed bed, a couple of Black-headed Gulls and 5 Stock Dove flew over. Wood Pigeon, Blackbird, 12 Fieldfare, a Blue Tit and a couple of Magpie were also noted. At 10:45am I set off for home and that mug of coffee, complete with a tot of whisky!
Tawny Owl and Red-crested Pochard move the “10-Mile List” on to 77 species.