Friday, 15 May 2015

Derbyshire Dales 4th-11th April 2015... This place is amazing!

So, the marathon begins! As usual it has been a while since I've posted, however, since you've all (fingers crossed) been excited for another action-packed blog to the level of Minsmere, I thought I'd treat you all! The week we had (a month ago which is far too long ago, I need to catch up) was simply fantastic the days were a naturalists dreams while the nights were an astronomers, me not being one I  may add. Instead of boring you with a 5000 word long scripture I've decided to chose my best pics favourite animals of the week and talk about them... I'll start with the unornithological (I made the word up) species!

Bank Vole:

Although there's only one specimen to report back about, this little critter certainly deserves its place. All of you would have experienced the sounds of little stick being broken, brambles rustling or movement in the water. Many a time it's a little mammal running off as if its life depended on it, and with this attitude 99 times out of 100 you won't see the (darn) thing. But today was the day, the first time in years I was able to have one loose cannon posing for us! It was fairly surreal for one of these to be so close without any nerves... This sort of attitude must link to the number of times it had actually seen a human and classed it as danger. I'm sure this will have an effect on the population with urban areas having more skittish localised populations. Courtesy of Dad for taking this fantastic shot "for once!" What separates this from a Field Vole is the red-chestnut hue to the fur, in contrast to the drab brown coating of a Field Vole.


The unidentified ball on a tree AKA UBOAT pictured caught us by surprise. My Mum first pointed it out to us (Dad & I), still haven't been able to i.d. it since, so UBOAT it remains...
Help would be appreciated, from some genius!


Another one off from the trip, or should I say two as there was a pair cruising above us. Apparently they are still a scarce breeder up in Derbyshire! The diagnostic feature is the diamond shaped tail, and of course the size. But if there's no direct comparison to size, the tail would be a far safer bet. We saw this near Monsal Dale.

Not much to say about this fluffball...  Except if it's a male the erected crest will present an orange undercover, but with a female just the same old gold! This one was seen with a couple others which could suggest a little migratory pitstop.


This time an unidentified red thing on a tree! Any ideas!? I should really improve my fungi knowledge, after all I'm a FUN GUY! Get it? Ok, I'll leave now...



No one could have dodged the Chiffchaffs song in Derbyshire; there was at least one in a 100m radius singing away. These things are truly mental! It in fact may have been the key bird of the trip and optimised our third stay at the wonderful Lee's Farm. Last year topped this year with the likes or Redstarts, Pied Flycatchers (!!!), Wheatears and a Ring Ouzel! The one below as you can tell was singing its heart out, hope he finds/ has found the lady!

Unusually there was only one Goosander to speak of, compared to the regular 2 from last year. Once again it was situated near Litton Mill. The lack of its mate this time may have been because it had flown back down the river somewhere, old age, died, or the continuous decline of this characteristic river dweller, I do hope its mate wanted a bit of lone time... Wouldn't like to see a sad Goosander!

Meadow Pipit:

Ok scratch the Chiffchaff idea... the Mipits were the story of Derbyshire, all around our place Meadow Pipits were doing their song flight. It was lulululululu, then a trill as it plummeted in a unique stiff-winged fashion! Many were seen, thorough checking did not find a lonesome Tree Pipit.
however great to hear/see, a sadly declining attraction to the Great British Countryside.


As some of you may have heard via through the best birdwatching tool in my opinion, Twitter (recommend to those reading, if there are any, to get), that I used the herding tac. It's true! I noticed a large flock of these with other bits and bobs here and there so decided to try and 'herd' them into the mega flock. Considering this is April 200+ is a fairly impressive sight. I succeeded in creating a chattering leaved trees! Last year I found 20-30 in a field near the copse, but this was late April. I'm implying that I suspect there could be some odd stragglers that breed here, you never know.

The Curlew:

Yes, I've labeled it as The Curlew, why? 'Cause' now I've decided this to be the top bird of the trip and I think I've finalised it now! You can't beat a singing Curlew in the Derbyshire Dales in (using country accent) "PROPARRR" countryside. Every day we heard them displaying and commanding the surroundings. I enjoyed trying to stalk these Waders, but my tip-toeing wasn't enough... They took off when I was 50m's away!


At the start of the holidays I heard the song of the Skylark. I searched far and wide to see the bird, but failed. Do you know why? I was looking towards the ground!!! Silly me thought they sang on the deck, then remembered a third of the way through, there 1/2 a mile up! After that point I began to see them everywhere, and oh their song is stonking!


I saw this bird twice, and that's all I needed to locate the nest. I can't state where it is as of course the DWT (derbyshire Wildlife Trust) would prefer me not to say. To confirm my premature thoughts the reserve below stated no access round this path which was the final piece of the puzzle. I must have sat there for 3-4 hours and at many different times of day so thought I'd see it sat there once, but no luck. Most times I was in the area you could hear them wailing, at first I thought it was a mick take!


The first few pictures illustrate how wonderful the lighting was that evening, fantastic. I was very pleased with the shot I managed below, it posed brilliantly. Although we have many down my way, it was still rather special sitting on one of the mounds enjoying their little twitter to each other.


Like the Goldcrest, nothing of particular interest to say about this bird. Most of you will already know the ins and outs of them. So here's just a few photos...

Tufted Duck:

Beautiful things with a lot of character. The trim/haircut certainly adds to their act, but would make it more of an afro if I was him!  Most rivers harboured them, but Bakewell proved to be a hotspot through bread etc. Which must have a negative affect on the ecosystem because of the high density of birds and fish. Also the turd must pollute the water terribly and have transverse effects further down the river. here are some pictures I captured while having a good old Fish & Chips.

Black-Headed Gull:

Just a picture I rather liked again from the honeypot site (for birds) Bakewell. I do love their white eyelashes!


Yet another quickie... This Treecreeper pictured here, was just about to enter its little nest to the right hand side of this crack in the tree. I found many even though they're mostly silent.

Terribly dressed youth:

Little interlude with a picture of a 'random' weirdo exhibiting a unique dresscode. Many will be glad to hear the shocking white Crocs have been binned, I repeat they've been binned... Only to be replaced by another less drastic pair!

Grey Wagtail:

Great fun. That's the only apt way of describing it. One day down in Monsal Dale I discovered my long lost hunting instincts by crawling away from the public footpath into touching distance of a pair of Grey Wagtails. I watched them for 2 hours or so finding their way across rocks, through weed and onto a couple of trees (rhyming not intended.) I was so pleased with the photos, I think I took over 200, it was just irresistible. My perseverance payed off with a nest being found on an adjacent tributary. Simple, but beautiful.



This is what the Derbyshire Dales is about, deep valleys, shallow rivers and Dippers. 4 nests I found! A total that if you told me beforehand I'd state you're lying. I was that amazed. The one pictured below took 2 hours of fieldwork before finding it, incidentally underneath a road! Finally one of Man's infrastructure provides a base for wildlife. I would describe it as a large form of a Wren's nest yet far more endearing. Judging by the pics below and watching the Dipper take tiny amounts of nest material back to the nest, it must've taken years! Comparable to a Spider's web, no one would destroy it as you know the time and effort put into this piece of art.


On the second to last day just outside our holiday home a Wheatear graced the field. Never mind Male, Female, this was still beautiful and very exciting to see the prominent white tail give me a flash.

Mandarin Duck:

Oriental, non-native, but certainly not unwanted. They may not be naturally part of the British wildlife but they've certainly earn their place. If it was like a Rat I'd definitely not include it into my 'presentation' however, I believe these charismatic birds deserve a place and brighten up our British rivers.
Water Vole:

I've gone against the order I said at the start but who cares, I just hope you've enjoyed the read. 3 metres, that was how close I was to a Water Vole! Not may people can say that, can they? I've seen a couple before but seeing this so close almost made me jump out of my skin! It's a mini Beaver I'd say, yellow teeth and largish size. The first picture shows you the more cute side of the Water Vole. However the one facing the camera shows an ugly rodent giving the "I'll kill ya" look.

Middleton Moor, Little Owls and Butterflies...

While looking on a map (as you do) I noticed a collection of three water bodies close together. I immediately decided to go there and was gladly taken by my Uncle and Aunt. They weren't too interested, can't blame them! If I had it my way they'd have to wait for five hours or so, but you can't have it all can you! A long (funny) story short after finding this place the next day I went up there with no water, no phone and with it being 10 miles away from the house turned out to be a bit of a nightmare... Echoes of the time I got lost in the Cairngorms reverberate in my mind. Once I reached there my raging headache had already began. So by the time I got back puking was on the menu. 
On a nicer note the place I found was called Middleton Moor a fairly well known birders paradise in the local area, and by all means is. Hoards Of Black-headed Gulls visit here, Lapwing bubble away and Snipe peck down by the reeds. It was a paradise... the chance of seeing something very special does seem highly likely, just gave me that feel.

Next came the Little Owls... All three years I had been here these little critters had hidden from me but by the end of the week enough was enough. My Grey Wagtail instincts helped me pursue the shots I was hoping for, and oh what a relief!

Cheeky Small Tortoiseshell thanking those who managed to read the lot!

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