Tuesday 3 April 2012

An ornithological treasure hunt around a pink watermill...

Last weekend I was in Cumbria for the set-up and opening of my friend Kittie Jones' excellent exhibition of new British Birds prints at The Watermill, Little Salkeld.

The Watermill, Little Salkeld

I decided to make a complete list of all the bird species I saw whilst there – it's fun to do and makes the eyes become keener. Here's what I saw: 

Bullfinch, Buzzard, Canada Goose, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Collared Dove

Common Gull, Cormorant, Curlew, Dipper, Dunnock, Feral Pigeon, Fieldfare, Goldcrest

Goldfinch, Goosander, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Grey Heron, Grey Wagtail, 

Greylag Goose, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Kestrel, Lapwing, Magpie, Mallard, Mute Swan

Nuthatch, Oystercatcher, Pheasant, Pied Wagtail, Redshank, Robin, Rook, Sand Martin, 

Shelduck, Shoveler, Song Thrush, Starling, Tawny Owl, Woodpigeon, Wren...

... 47 species in under 24 hours, and in an area of less than 4 square kilometres! It's amazing how many different birds are around when one really starts to look. 

 Dippers often disappear against a backdrop of swirling flowing water.

Dipper near nest area.

Dipper territory, under rail bridge.

Particularly exciting were sand martins swooping low for insects over the River Eden -only returned in the last few weeks from wintering in Africa- and a flock of fieldfares chack-chack-chacking noisily as they flew overhead. Very soon all fieldfares will have left our shores as they head east for the breeding season.

Here in Britain breeding is already well underway - below an old stone bridge of the Settle-Carlisle railway line a pair of dippers are nesting. I watched them bring white grubs every few minutes to feed their young. Nearby a tawny owl has a nest in a hollow in the remaining stump of a storm-felled tree.

Back in my own garden in Linlithgow the blue tits are building and a robin already has three eggs.

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